Skip to main content

Full text of "The Degrees of the spiritual life : a method of directing souls according to their progress in virtue"

See other formats


LT) 



ru 



THE DEGREES OF THE 
SPIRITUAL LIFE 



Ntful 

DOM PETRUS NUGENT, O.S.B., 
Censor Deputatus. 

fimprtmt $otest. 

* GULIELMUS, 

Episcopus Arindelensis , 

Vicarius Generates. 
WESTMONASTERII, 

die 28 Junii, 1907. 

;;.> -. > * 



THE DEGREES OF THE 
SPIRITUAL LIFE 



A METHOD OF DIRECTING SOULS ACCORDING TO 
THEIR PROGRESS IN VIRTUE 



BY 

THE ABBE A. SAUDREAU 

DIRECTOR OF THE MOTHER-HOUSE OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD AT ANGERS 



TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH BY 

DOM BEDE CAMM, O.S.B. 

OF ERDINGTON ABBEY, BIRMINGHAM 



LIBRIS 

ST. BASIL S SCHOLASTICATE 



IN TWO VOLUMES 
VOL71 



R. & T. WASHBOURNE, LTD. 
i, 2 & 4 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 

AND 248 BUCHANAN STREET, GLASGOW 

BI:N:<JGER BROS. : NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, AND CHICAGO 

1907 

(All rights reserved) 



FEB 4 ;353 



TRANSLATOR S PREFACE 

THE work which I have here the privilege of introducing 
to English readers is already well known and highly 
valued in France and other countries. I have undertaken 
this translation at the wish of my Abbot, and with the per 
mission of the author, in the confident expectation that a 
book so clear and admirable will be as much appreciated 
by English-speaking Catholics as it has been by their 
brethren on the Continent. For this book is well fitted to 
become the spiritual companion of souls who are entering 
on the way of perfection, and they will find in it a sure and 
faithful guide. Though primarily intended for priests 
and religious, it is by no means adapted for them alone, 
and there are few indeed who are in earnest about their 
salvation who will not get help and light from its perusal. 
I hope that to many it will become what The Spiritual 
Combat was to St. Francis of Sales, and what that great 
Saint s own Introduction to the Devout Life has been to 
countless souls. For the Abbe Saudreau has no new 
doctrine of his own to proclaim ; his work has been to 
gather together, expound, and co-ordinate the teachings 
of the Saints. Though the structure of the book is founded 
on St. Teresa s Interior Castle, and it may in some sense be 
regarded as a commentary on that immortal work, yet the 
author has illustrated and enforced the teachings of the 



vi TRANSLATOR S PREFACE 

Seraph of Carmel from the writings of innumerable other 
Saints with such skill that the whole work has become, not 
a mere mosaic of quotations, but a luminous exposition of 
the science of perfection. 

It is, however, unnecessary for me to commend a work 
which has already been welcomed so warmly, and which 
has the special authorization and approval of His Eminence 
Cardinal Mathieu and other distinguished members of 
the hierarchy. 

I have to thank those who have kindly assisted me in 
the labour of translation, and especially my friend Mrs. F. 
Yorke Smith, who, with equal ability and perseverance, 
has accomplished the larger share of a somewhat arduous 
task ; Mr. F. Clement Egerton ; and Dom John Chapman, 
Prior of this Abbey, who has greatly assisted me in the 
work of revision. 

Those readers who find this book of service to them are 
requested to remember in their charitable prayers those 
who have been instrumental in its translation, that they, 
too, may make progress in the way of perfection, and 
mounting in their turn the degrees of the spiritual life, may 
finally attain to perfect charity. 

D. B. C. 

ERDINGTON ABBEY, 

Feast of Corpus Christi, 
1907. 



AUTHOR S PREFACE 

IT is no novelty to attempt to classify Christian souls 
according to the degree of perfection to which they have 
attained. Indeed, so ancient a writer as the author of the 
works wrn ch bear the name of Dionysius the Areopagite 
had already laid down the principle that we must distin 
guish three successive phases in the work of the formation of 
a soul by grace the states, namely, of purification, illu 
mination, and perfection. 

And long before this, in the second century, Clement of 
Alexandria, describing in his Stromata the steps by which 
the faithful soul mounts towards the gnosis, or perfect 
knowledge, distinguished in like manner three degrees. 
The first is that in which the soul is dominated by fear, and 
abstains through fear from all that is unjust ; the second 
degree is ruled by hope, whereby the soul desires the 
Sovereign Good ; and the third is charity, which gives the 
perfection of knowledge (Stromata, iv. 7). 

St. Basil repeats the same teaching (Proem, in Reg. fus. 
tract., No. 3). 

" St. Gregory of Nazianzen," says Fnelon, " like nearly 
all the Fathers, has followed the division into slaves, hired 
servants, and children the first guided by fear, the second 
by interest, and the third by love." 

In the Middle Ages the same distinction became classical 



viii AUTHOR S PREFACE 

amongst theologians. In the terms of the pseudo-Diony- 
sius, they recognized the purgative way, or that of begin 
ners ; the illuminative way, or that of the more advanced ; 
and the unitive way, that of the perfect ; and the Church 
has confirmed this teaching in condemning a proposition of 
Molinos which rejected it. Mystical authors, also, have 
chosen to divide the just who live on the earth into distinct 
classes. 

St. Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogue, points out the 
stages through which the soul passes on the way of perfec 
tion. In this kind of ascension of the soul to God she 
reckons three degrees, and to these she adds, later on, a 
fourth or higher degree, which is none other than the union, 
perfected and consummated, or mystical marriage of the 
soul with God. St. Francis of Sales, in his Treatise of 
the Love of God (Book X., chap, iv.), divides the servants of 
God into four classes. Richard of St. Victor distinguishes 
three degrees of charity. St. Teresa, in her Interior Castle, 
treats this question with greater length and clearness, 
and her natural genius, her great experience, and the 
superabundant lights with which God favoured her, have 
combined to give us a real masterpiece of mystical 
teaching. 

But if there is no novelty in thus classifying the states 
through which souls pass in their quest after perfec 
tion, it is by no means a vain or a superfluous task. Were 
it so, indeed, the Fathers, theologians, and mystical writers 
would not have insisted on this point, as they have done. 
Besides, the description of the successive phases of the 
ascetical life forms a whole spiritual psychology, the study 
of which is as instructive as it is interesting. Again, is it 
not " certain that beginners and perfect souls ought to be 



AUTHOR S PREFACE ix 

guided according to quite different rules "P 1 In order to 
direct souls wisely, it is necessary to bear in mind the 
degree of perfection which they have acquired. 

" The grace of beginners," remarks Pere Grou (Manuel 
des Ames Interieures, p. 71), " is not the same as that granted 
to the more advanced, nor is this the same as that of those 
who have attained to perfection. Dispositions which are 
good in a beginner would not be so in one who is more 
advanced ; certain practices which are suitable in one state 
are no longer so in another." St. Teresa was near stopping 
on the way of perfection, because a priest, who was other 
wise good and zealous one Caspar Daza wished to push 
her on too fast ; and many others, on the contrary, have 
remained in a regrettable state of mediocrity who would 
have been raised very high if the rules which are fitted to 
generous and more advanced souls had been applied to their 
case. 

How, then, must we make this classification ? There 
is, first of all, the classical distinction of the three ways, 
which it would be rash to reject. We shall adopt it as 
our foundation. But this classification is very wide, and 
spiritual writers have conceived other more detailed dis 
tinctions ; and for these subdivisions we do not think we 
can take a better guide than St. Teresa, not only because 
her authority in spiritual matters is of the first rank, but 
also because she has treated of this question at length and 
with great clearness in her Mansions or Interior Castle. 
The teachings of other masters of the spiritual life will then 
often serve to confirm and complete the doctrine of this 
great Saint. 

1 Articles d Issy, drawn up by Bossuet, Fenelon, and Tronson 
No. 34. 



AUTHOR S PREFACE 

Is it necessary to remark that in this kind of moral 
classification the various degrees are not separated from each 
other by clear and precise boundaries ? Let us take sinners, 
for instance. As to these we base our distinctions on the 
defects of ignorance, weakness, carelessness, and malice ; 
nevertheless, such defects are found mingled in very 
different proportions in the various individuals. So it is 
with faithful souls ; very diverse sentiments, some ap 
proaching to perfection, and others further removed from it, 
are found to mingle and overlap in the same soul. We 
must apply in such cases the saying of theologians, Judi- 
cium fertur ex communiter contingentibus. The classifica 
tion must be made after the predominating dispositions, 
which an attentive observer will easily discover. 

Lest we should be accused of rashness, we should, how 
ever, perhaps do well to explain how we have been led to 
deal with so difficult a subject. 

We were far from intending, when we took this work in 
hand, to develop it so fully. We had been asked to write 
a mere magazine article on a subject which seemed to 
deserve elucidation, and we should never have thought of 
pushing our investigations further had it not been for the 
encouragement which we received on the completion of this 
initial task encouragement which came from very com 
petent judges, and which stimulated our ardour to proceed. 
It did not seem impossible to complete the work ; the 
notes which we had made for our own guidance in the 
direction of souls were available, and little by little these 
notes developed into a book. Every one who has under 
taken the serious study of any subject well knows what is 
wont to happen. At first the way seems short and easy, 
but as we advance new horizons open out before us, and the 



AUTHOR S PREFACE xi 

road grows ever longer. So it has been with this work. 
What reception awaits it ? God alone knows. 1 If the 
enterprise is thought to be too high a one, and the author 
inadequate to his task, let him be pardoned at least for the 
sake of his good intentions. Certain observations appeared 
to us to be true and useful, and we have accordingly made 
them. We are conscious that we have but acted as an echo 
to the voices of the great masters, and if any good should 
result from our labours, it is to them that it will be due. 

If this work should but serve to call attention to certain 
passages of their writings, and thus inspire our readers 
with the desire to know them better, we should consider 
that we had neither wasted our own time nor that of our 
readers. 

1 When these lines appeared some years ago we were far from 
expecting so great a circulation. The two French editions, now 
exhausted, consisted of 4,000 copies. Translations in several 
foreign languages have appeared. God has visibly blessed our 
work. May He deign to bless it yet, and make it serve for the 
instruction and edification of Christian souls ! Note to the third 
edition, 1905.) 



CONTENTS OF VOL. I 



PAGE 

TRANSLATOR S PREFACE v 

AUTHOR S PREFACE - vii 

CHAPTER I 

SINNERS 

i. Obduracy - i 

2. Causes of Obduracy 2 

3. Obstacles to the Progress of Evil - 4 

4. The Different Degrees of Obduracy 7 

5. How to proceed with Regard to such Sinners - 10 

CHAPTER II 

DISSIPATED AND SENSUAL SOULS : THEIR PURELY 
NATURAL LIFE 

i. The Dispositions of these Souls - 16 
2. How to inspire these Souls with Better Dispositions - 19 



THE PURGATIVE WAY 

INTRODUCTION - 22 

BOOK I 

FIRST DEGREE BELIEVING SOULS 

CHAPTER I 
PORTRAIT OF BELIEVING SOULS 

i. The Doctrine of St. Teresa and of Blessed Henry Suzo - 23 
2. Pious Practices, Interior Dispositions, and External Con 
duct of the Souls in this First Degree - - 26 



xiv CONTENTS OF VOL. I 

CHAPTER II 
DIRECTION OF THE SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 

SECTION I 

PAGE 

General Rules - -30 

i. How we must enlighten these Souls - 30 

2. How we must accustom these Souls to live their Lives in a 

Christian Manner 32 

SECTION II 

Remarks on the Different Classes of Beginners - 38 

i. Tepid Souls - 38 

2. Belated Souls - 41 

3. Beginners Children - 42 



BOOK II 

SECOND DEGREE GOOD CHRISTIAN SOULS 

CHAPTER I 

PICTURE OF THE SOULS WHICH BELONG TO THE SECOND 
DEGREE 

i. The Doctrines of St. Teresa - 49 

2. Distinctive Characteristics of this Second Mansion - 50 

3. How the Souls in this Second Degree may relapse or 

become Stationary - 54 

CHAPTER II 

DIRECTION OF THE SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 

SECTION I 

Some General Principles in Spiritual Direction - 59 

i. Direction should be Paternal 59 

2. Direction ought to be Firm - 66 

3. Direction must be altogether Supernatural - 68 



CONTENTS OF VOL. I xv 

PAGE 

4. Direction ought to be Practical - -70 

5. Duties of Persons under Direction towards their Spiritual 

Father - - 72 



SECTION II 

Special Rules for the Direction of Souls of the Second Degree 73 

They must be still further Enlightened 74 
The Training of these Souls to a more fundamentally Christian 

Life 74 

i. Prayer 75 
2. The Sanctifi cation of Common Actions - - 76 
3. Renunciation The Fight against Sin The Ruling Pas 
sion, etc. - 78 
4. The Use of the Sacraments 93 



SECTION III 

A Summary of the Method of Direction best adapted for the 

Souls of this Second Degree - - 97 



CHAPTER III 
ON MENTAL PRAYER 

SECTION I 

On Mental Prayer in General 99 

i. Its Importance - 99 

2. Definition of Mental Prayer Its Various Divisions 105 

SECTION II 

On Discursive Prayer - - 108 

i. Definition of Discursive Prayer - 108 

2. Method of Discursive Prayer 109 

3. Practical Ways of leading Souls to Meditation - 119 
4. Subjects, Place, Posture, Time, Duration of the Meditation 123 



xvi CONTENTS OF VOL. I 

THE ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 

PAGE 

PRELIMINARY NOTE - - 128 

BOOK III 

THE THIRD DEGREE DEVOUT SOULS 

PART I. PHASES OF PIETY 
CHAPTER I 

HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO THE ILLUMINATIVE LlFE 

i. Sensible Consolations 129 

2. The Nature of these Spiritual Delights 132 

3. Duration of this State of Delights 139 

CHAPTER II 
BUDDING PIETY 

i. The Fruits which Sensible Consolations produce in the Soul 141 
2. The Failings and Imperfections of Pious Souls 144 

CHAPTER III 
ARID PIETY 

i . The Diminution of Sensible Favours 151 

2. The Faults of those who fail to Profit by this Trial of Dryness 154 
3. Faults proceeding from the Temperament - 163 

CHAPTER IV 

HOW A SOUL MAY FALL FROM THIS STATE OF PlETY - - 1 67 



PART II. THE DIRECTION OF DEVOUT SOULS 

CHAPTER I 
RECOLLECTION - - - 169 

CHAPTER II 
RENUNCIATION 

i. Mortification - 179 

2. Patience - - - - - 186 



CONTENTS OF VOL. I xvii 

CHAPTER III 
HUMILITY 

PAGE 

I. How the Practice of Humility should be inculcated - 190 
II. The Practice of Humility - - 194 

CHAPTER IV 
PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 196 

CHAPTER V 

DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 211 

PRELIMINARY REMARKS - 211 

SECTION I 
Marks of the Diabolic Spirit - 213 

SECTION II 

Marks of the Human Spirit, Purely Natural Inclinations and 

Conceptions - 219 

i. Impulses which are Good, but Purely Rational - - 219 

2. Eagerness - - 220 

3. Scruples 227 

SECTION III 
Marks of Divine Inspiration - - 231 

i. Divine Inspiration in General - - 231 

2. Vocation - 239 



PART III. AFFECTIVE PRAYER 

CHAPTER I 
DESCRIPTION OF THIS PRAYER 

i. The Doctrine of Spiritual Writers concerning Affective 

Prayer - - 249 

2. Distinguishing Characteristics of Affective Prayer - 253 

3. How the Affective Sentiments are more or less Intense 256 



xviii CONTENTS OF VOL. I 

CHAPTER II 
PRACTICAL RULES FOR AFFECTIVE PRAYER 

PAGE 

i. Preparation - 260 

2. The Substance of the Prayer - 262 

CHAPTER III 
THE SOULS FOR WHICH AFFECTIVE PRAYER is SUITABLE - 265 

CHAPTER IV 

DIFFICULTIES WHICH ARE MET WITH IN THE PRACTICE OF 
AFFECTIVE PRAYER 

i. The Causes of Aridities The Conduct to be observed in 

Aridities - 269 

2. Which are the Souls most liable to Aridities? 271 

3. Mortification as a Remedy for Dry ness Its Necessity for 

Prayerful Souls - 272 



BOOK IV 

FOURTH DEGREE FERVOUR 

CHAPTER I 
THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 

i. How Fervent Souls comprehend Evangelical Abnegation 

much better than do Pious Souls 275 

2. The Character and Extent of the Charity of Fervent Souls - 276 

3. Other Virtues of Fervent Souls 282 

4. The Imperfections of Fervent Souls - 286 

CHAPTER II 
THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 

i. How the Soul attains to the State of Fervour - - 291 

2. How Souls gain strength in Renunciation The Two 
Phases of Fervour : Sensible Fervour, Acquired Fervour 
The Night of the Senses Pure Faith - 294 

3. How and why many Souls never Rise Higher in the Spiritual 

Life - - 300 



CONTENTS OF VOL. I xix 
CHAPTER III 

PAGE 

THE PRAYER OF FERVENT SOULS 34 

CHAPTER IV 
THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 

i. The Practice of Recollection, Humility, and of other Virtues 311 

2. The Need for Perfect Renunciation 3 J 3 

3. The Soul s Labour after Renunciation - - 316 

4. Passive Renunciation The Divine Purgation - - 317 

APPENDIX 

EXCELSIUS - 3 2 6 



THE 

DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL 
LIFE 

CHAPTER I 

SINNERS 

i. Obduracy. 

i. BEFORE beginning our study of the steps or degrees of 
the spiritual life by which the soul mounts up to God, let 
us attempt shortly to describe the degrees of sin. As the 
soul which is faithful to grace scales height after height, up 
to the very summit of perfection, so, on the other hand, 
the rebellious soul may descend from precipice to precipice 
until it is plunged in the unfathomable depths of the 
abyss. 

We are not at present considering the case of those who 
fall accidentally into grave sins and at once rise up again, 
but rather that of those who remain in a state of sin and 
have not the courage to emerge from it. 

2. With some, faith remains intact, and they are far from 
wishing to shake off its yoke. This may spring from a 
special grace of God or from natural attachment to their 
religion, or, again, from the salutary influence of a Christian 
environment. In any case, their faith has been preserved 
from danger ; they do not know what doubt is, and for 
them truth has lost nothing of its weight. 
I In this first case, remorse is active ; the sinner would 
fain abandon his sin, but he has not the courage to do so ; 

VOL. i. i 



2 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

he groans under the tyranny of his passions, and yet 
remains their slave. Perhaps it is the difficulty of confessing 
his guilt which keeps him away from the Sacraments, or 
even involves him in continual sacrileges ; still, his torments 
are great, and great is the longing which he feels to leave 
the state of sin. Often, indeed, he resolves to do so, and 
yet each time he shrinks back at the last moment, and puts 
it off till later. This state is not yet one of obduracy or 
obstinate attachment to sin ; and, as a matter of fact, 
those who have preserved their faith alive are, of all sin 
ful souls, the most easy to convert, more especially if they 
have kept up some habit of prayer. 

3. But it is rare that the soul remains in this condition. 
As the result of resistance to good and of continual unfaith 
fulness, grace becomes less abundant and less efficacious ; 
the voice of God, continually rejected, becomes less urgent ; 
remorse tends to lessen ; the light of faith, if not extin 
guished, becomes obscured ; the passions, constantly in 
dulged, become ever more exacting and tyrannical, and 
then the sinner falls into the state of obduracy. 

This state is deplorable ; it is very offensive to God, and 
dangerous for the soul, which appears insensible to the 
strongest appeals of reason, and is not disturbed by the 
most weighty considerations ; everything flows over it, like 
water over marble, without penetrating or softening its 
hardness. This is because the evil does not lie in the 
judgment, but in the will ; it is the will which is rebellious 
and obstinately stiff the will which rejects in advance all 
the arguments brought to bear on it, without deigning even 
to consider them. 

2. Causes of Obduracy. 

4. We said that obduracy comes from resistance to 
grace, and this resistance produces results the more per 
nicious in proportion to its guilt. Thus, it is less dangerous 
if it proceeds from ignorance, as is the case with many souls 



SINNERS 3 

that have had little instruction, whose intelligence is but 
poorly developed, or whose Christian education has been 
greatly neglected. In the same category may be placed 
certain characters of a giddy and heedless type, hardly 
capable of reflecting seriously on the gravity of their 
faults. As such souls have received less from God, and 
are called by Him to a lesser degree of perfection, they are 
more excusable, and in their case the Judge will be less 
severe. 

5. But if the soul is unfaithful to the voice of conscience 
through cowardice from the fear, for instance, of having 
to do violence to its inclinations or through weariness or 
discouragement, the effects of this infidelity will be much 
more fatal. 

6. They will be far worse still if the resistance to grace 
amounts to malice, the sinner deliberately, out of mere 
wantonness, preferring the evil propensities inspired by the 
devil to the good desires which come from God. 1 

Although less common, sins of malice are yet all too fre 
quently met with. Some Christians get angry when they 
see their undertakings failing, misfortunes overwhelming 
them, or death snatching from them those whom they love, 
and they lay the blame on Divine Providence. " What 
have I done to God," say these poor creatures in their 
madness, " that He should treat me so hardly ?" And 
then, as a kind of revenge, they neglect their religious duties 
more and more, and plunge deliberately into sin. 

Others are vexed that they cannot indulge their passions 
in peace ; they fall into a kind of rage against themselves 
and against God. As they cannot get rid of faith, and are 
keenly susceptible to the sting of conscience, they enter 
into a struggle with God, and, like Mathan, they would fain 

" Drown all their remorse in crime." 

They have not, however, yet reached the extreme pitch 
of obduracy, for there is in this frenzy a blindness, a sort 

1 Venerable Father Libermann, Merits Spirituels, p. 260. 



4 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

of dementia, which in some small degree diminishes its 
guilt. 

The malice which is cold and deliberate is a still graver 
sin, and the obduracy which results is far more terrible. 
Were not Luther and Calvin more guilty than the unhappy 
fanatics whom they stirred up ? Was not Voltaire more 
responsible than Marat ? 



3. Obstacles to the Progress of Evil. 

7. Once started on the way of iniquity, sinners can, 
and, in fact, do, go to the last extremes of crime, unless 
they meet with obstacles which stop them, and make them 
observe some degree of moderation in their deplorable 
disorders. 1 We can classify under three heads those happy 
influences which counterbalance the impulses of evil 
passions namely, other passions contrary to the dominant 
vice ; a certain inherent uprightness ; and, finally, some 
remnant of faith. 

8. First, then, the other human passions. Just as a 
solitary tree grows to a vast size, while if crowded amongst 
others in the forest it does not spread itself abroad, so cer 
tain vices are impeded and arrested in their development by 
other contrary vices. Thus, avarice can keep a man from 
going far in debauchery ; again, and more frequently still, 
the passion of honour and the care for reputation will make 

1 The dominant defect of the character makes great havoc in 
cases where no obstacles are opposed, either by nature or grace 
that is to say, in those who reject all the appeals of Divine grace. 
It is this which makes, and has always made, the greatest miscreants 
that the world has ever seen, and of these the majority have let 
themselves be carried away by an evil disposition, which could have 
been resisted had they chosen. Anger, revenge, cruelty, hate, envy, 
avarice, the sins of the flesh, and a host of stupendous crimes, pro 
ceed very often from a defect of character ; and then, as a rule, the 
sinner is drawn into great excesses, unless, indeed, some obstacle is 
encountered " (Libermann, Merits Spirituels, p. 242). 



SINNERS 5 

him avoid many an error. How many souls resist their 
evil inclinations in this way, and without much merit pre 
vent them from acquiring that ascendency which they 
otherwise would do ! It is clear that those who meet 
with no other obstacles than these in the way of evil are 
apt to go far in sin, and, though they may preserve certain 
external decencies, are at bottom extremely bad. Such 
people feel an intense dislike for the good, which betrays 
itself in ridicule, in attacks upon religion and its ministers, 
etc. ; for the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the 
heart, and the heart of these unfortunate sinners is full of 
corruption and hate. 

9. Natural reason, the sense of honour, and the instinc 
tive horror which vice inspires, are also causes why many 
restrain themselves and avoid the last excesses of sin. 
These sinners frequently possess good qualities and natural 
virtues in a fair state of development ; but they are very 
imperfectly instructed as to their religious duties, and this 
ignorance excuses them in part (non a toto sed a tanto, as 
theologians say) ; they are less guilty than might be sup 
posed. When men of this kind live outside all Christian 
influence, in countries where religious indifference pre 
dominates, they are apt to conceive very incomplete and 
sometimes grotesque ideas as to their duty towards God. 
Thus, they imagine that they are good Christians because 
they love religion and hold the impious in abhorrence, 
while they themselves are neglecting the most essential 
religious practices, such as the fulfilment of their Easter 
duties or the attendance at Sunday Mass. It is even diffi 
cult to make them understand the importance and gravity 
of these precepts ; thus, they are far from being altogether 
bad : they are more ignorant and foolish than wicked, and if 
they sometimes take part in conversations against religion, 
it is rather through weakness and human respect than 
impiety. 

10. Finally and chiefly, it is faith which restrains many a 
sinner on the downward career faith which still remains 



6 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

in his heart, weakened, no doubt, diminished, but not 
extinct. This faint glimmer of faith continues to shine in 
their souls, thanks to a special protection from God, or to 
a remnant of early teaching which has left its deep traces, 
or, again, to the salutary influence of a Christian environ 
ment. Thus it is that sinners who dwell in countries 
where faith still holds its empire, and in truly Christian 
families, especially if they do not at the same time suffer 
from the bad influence of irreligious friends, have right 
beliefs even while they do evil. It is true that they are 
often eager to stifle these troublesome convictions noluit 
intelligere ut bene ageret (he has refused to understand that 
he might act well) but whether they hold them willingly 
or against the grain, in their inmost consciences they do 
homage to the truth. As a rule, in souls like these, there is 
an astonishing mixture of good and evil sentiments ; we 
must not, then, take their protestations of unbelief too 
literally, just as we should be much mistaken in branding as 
hypocritical those signs of faith which they sometimes 
exhibit in the very midst of their disorders. 

But if we must not think them worse than they are, we 
should not, on the other hand, take a too favourable view 
of their case, as they themselves are often apt to do. 
Indeed, they are much exposed to self-delusion. Evil habit 
has blunted their conscience, and made their gravest sins 
appear to them as little worthy of blame, while at the same 
time, self-love, which keeps them from acknowledging them 
selves to be in the wrong, the good feelings which still remain 
in them, and which are only velleities that is to say, 
approbations of the judgment rather than true acts of will 
all this deceives them as to their own state. Like Pilate, 
they wash their hands, because they feel a certain anxiety 
not to crucify their God, but that does not hinder them from 
sacrificing Him to their interests and their pleasures. 



SINNERS 7 

4. The Different Degrees of Obduracy. 

11. We have shown the causes which produce hardness of 
heart, and the obstacles which, on the other hand, hinder 
the progress of the evil. Now, if we examine the effects 
which result from these opposing influences, it will finally 
appear that there are four kinds of sinners who are con 
firmed in wrongdoing. 

12. The first are those who sin through ignorance. As 
to this first class, we have in view those, we believe, 
numerous cases where ignorance and lack of understanding 
with regard to the things of faith cannot be imputed to 
them for sin. And so, if they are not otherwise guilty, 
God will judge these poor people with great mercy. If He 
has said, Cui multum datum est, multum quczretur ab eo 
(Much will be required of him to whom much has been 
given), it is clear that He will require little of those who 
have received little. Now, there are some who have really 
received very little. When Christian education has been 
altogether wanting or greatly neglected ; when a man has 
lived in the midst of indifference, where God was never 
named, where the fulfilment of religious duties has en 
countered almost insurmountable hindrances (a state of 
things which tends to make him violate them habitually 
and without scruple), is it surprising that the conscience 
has remained or has become far from sensitive ? Many of 
the sins that these unfortunates commit, sins which would 
be very serious for enlightened Christians, are much less 
grave for them. Indeed, if they have avoided the sins 
from which they shrank with most horror if, besides this, 
they have preserved their respect for religion and really 
Christian sentiments, they are not far from the kingdom of 
God. Some simple opportunity, such as admission to a 
Catholic club or a Christian confraternity, will often suffice 
to bring them back to their duties. They are kept in a 
state of sin by the absence of good habits or by human 
respect, and when once these obstacles (which are rather 



8 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

exterior than such as affect the inmost soul) are counter 
balanced by the aids that are offered them, they return to 
God without much difficulty. 

Unhappily, after their conversion the greater number 
continue lukewarm or, rather, very ignorant. Thus, with 
such persons, it will be necessary, for instance, to return 
frequently to the charge in order to get them to under 
stand that to miss Mass, to get drunk, and so on, is 
no light fault, as they would gladly believe, but a really 
grave one. 

Their faith is so unenlightened, their false ideas are so 
deeply rooted in their minds, that without any great culpa 
bility on their part they will cling to their old errors for a 
long time. It is therefore greatly to be desired that they 
should not be left to themselves after their conversion, 
but that every possible means should be taken to complete 
their religious instruction and mould them to more Christian 
ideas. 

13. In the second place, there are the sinners who fall 
into vice through weakness. These retain some desire to 
do well, they regret the evil that they commit, they love and 
esteem virtuous people, but at the fatal moment the in 
toxication of passion makes them beside themselves ; they 
become dizzy, fascinated, and succumb. They sin also by 
impulse, or because they have not the necessary courage 
to accomplish an unpleasant duty. These are doubtless 
but accidental falls, from which they might recover ; but 
beyond this such sinners suffer from a tendency to dis 
couragement, which keeps them in sin. Knowing them 
selves to be weak and irresolute, and having therefore no 
hope of breaking their bonds or making any vigorous 
efforts, they drift on through softness and cowardice, and 
make no attempt to emerge from their deplorable condition. 

These, again, are not very bad, or very far gone in sin. 
And so, even when they are inclined to be slightly boast 
ful as to their evil courses, they are not to be taken too 
seriously, or thought incapable of amendment. 



SINNERS 9 

14. The third class is that of the careless and indifferent. 
They hardly trouble to find out whether their actions are 
legitimate or forbidden ; their only idea is to revel in every 
possible pleasure. In these unhappy people the voice of 
conscience is almost stifled. Their state is one of spiritual 
blindness, a condition which is exceedingly dangerous and 
offensive to God, to Whom they give so little heed. In 
this state of complete carelessness, faith becomes much 
weakened, and often altogether extinguished, while there 
is much less hope of their conversion. Such persons are 
known to die quite peacefully in impenitence, and they 
go into eternity without fear or anxiety. Ignorance 
has much to do with their condition, and doubtless God 
will judge them with less severity ; but if it is the 
result of a wilful blindness, of a determination to ignore 
the stings of conscience, their condition is indeed de 
plorable. 

15. Finally, there are the sinners who sin out of mere 
wantonness, knowing and perfectly understanding the 
gravity of their disorders, their irreligion, or their vices, 
and cheerfully making up their minds to do evil. We can 
place in the same class those who commit sin from vexation 
or wounded pride. They began going wrong through 
weakness ; then, when their disorders drew on them well- 
merited humiliations, their self-love was wounded, and they 
avenged themselves by plunging further into the abyss. 
Both of these classes are not merely indifferent, like those 
of whom we spoke before, but actually hostile ; they feel 
a repugnance for virtue and a hatred for the good. If they 
wilfully cherish this hatred of good, it in time assumes 
frightful proportions, and they end by displaying the furious 
rage of demons and lost souls. Such are the initiates in 
those higher grades of the secret societies, those energumens 
of whose frightful orgies, blasphemies, and satanic acts we 
cannot read without a shudder. They have allowed the 
evil spirit to assume such a power over them, they follow 
out his suggestions with such readiness and promptitude, 



io THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

that we can say of them, in reversing the words of 
St. Paul, that it is no longer they who live, but Satan who 
lives in them. 1 



5. How to proceed with Regard to such Sinners. 

16. How must we act towards these unhappy beings who 
are plunged in sin ? How are we to cast out Satan, who 
has taken up his permanent abode in their hearts ? The 
Gospel tells us that the Apostles, to whom our Lord had 
given the power to cast out devils, found one day that they 
were baffled by one of these wicked spirits, who resisted all 
their exorcisms. Jesus Himself was obliged to intervene 
before Satan would give up his prey. The Apostles in 
astonishment then asked the Saviour, " Why could not we 
cast him out ?" " This kind," replied the Divine Master, 
"can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting" 
(Mark ix. 27). 2 Prayer and mortification such, in fact, are 
the often indispensable and only means of procuring the 
conversion of inveterate sinners ; any price, however great, 

1 All those who, without going to these lengths, call the devil to 
their aid, in one manner or another, give that malignant enemy of 
souls a very formidable hold over them ; they will need a great effort 
to shake off the yoke which they have thus placed on their shoulders. 
The first use which the demon makes of the power which has thus 
been given him is to hinder them from confessing their sins. For 
the same reason certain superstitious, or rather diabolical, practices, 
such as table-turning, are very dangerous, because every appeal, 
even implicit, to the tempter increases his strength, and the most 
deplorable results may ensue. The Church, in praying God, as she 
does in one of her collects, to deliver them from all contact with 
the evil spirit, shows herself a true mother, watchful over the needs 
of her children. 

2 This dumb devil still makes ravages of souls, for is it not he 
who stops on the very lips of certain penitents the confession of 
their sins ? And so every confessor should remember the words of 
our Lord, praying and cheerfully offering his fasts and penances to 
drive Satan out of the hearts that he possesses and keeps prisoners 
in the bondage of sacrilege. 



SINNERS 1 1 

must be paid to obtain from God those more than ordinary 
graces necessary to touch these hardened hearts. 

We know what the Cure d Ars said to a priest who com 
plained of not being able to convert his parishioners : 
" Have you fasted ? have you held vigils ? have you taken 
the discipline ? As long as you have not tried such means as 
these, do not think that you have done everything possible." 

17. The priest is the continuer of the work of Jesus on 
earth. Into what an illusion would he fall, did he think to 
save souls without having recourse to the means employed 
by his Saviour. For us Jesus offered Himself to the 
strokes of the Divine Justice. " Father," said He, " strike 
Me. I consent to pay the debt of all these iniquities, but 
forgive the sinners, for they know not what they do." The 
priest, who is another Christ sacerdos alter Christus must 
also himself do penance for his brethren. There are souls 
who, even in the midst of their disorders, seem to be the 
object of the specially tender care of Divine Providence. 
They are pursued by remorse far more than others ; their 
faith remains bright and alive ; they are preserved, in a way 
that we cannot account for, from the dangers in which so 
many others are lost. Whence comes this privilege ? It 
is that God has let Himself be touched by the prayers of 
some faithful soul ; the sacrifices which it offers to Him 
appease His justice and hold back the sword of chastise 
ment, and they end by winning from His mercy graces 
which are, so to speak, irresistible. 

Now, who can and who ought to render this immense 
service to poor sinners but the priest of God ? He has not 
been called to the dignity of the priesthood for his own 
advantage, but for the good of his brethren. Christianus 
propter se, sacerdos propter olios (He is a Christian for 
himself, a priest for others). 

Oh, how happy at the day of judgment will be those 
priests who have offered themselves as victims for sinners 
who have sacrificed everything and sacrificed themselves 
for the salvation of their brethren ! 



12 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

18. Let us, then, always put supernatural means first. 
It would appear superfluous to enunciate so evident a truth ; 
is it, however, generally recognized ? Are not those persons 
very numerous, on the contrary, whose whole activity, 
whose whole zeal, is employed in the pursuit of skilful 
methods, in the working-out of the designs of a purely 
human ingenuity ? Cleverness and diplomacy are of very 
little use when it is a question of breaking the bonds of sin 
and restoring charity to a hardened heart. Human means 
may serve to render the employment of supernatural means 
possible : they may be like the bait which conceals the 
hook in the hands of the fishers of men ; but we must 
be on our guard against giving them an importance which 
they do not possess, of attributing to them the principal 
part. Methods which are simply human can obtain merely 
human results ; the conversion of souls is a Divine work, 
and only the Divine Workman can bring it to a happy 
conclusion. 

19. After prayer and penance Bona est oratio cum 
jejunio (Prayer is good when it is joined with fasting, 
Tob. xii. 6) which touch the heart of God and obtain 
His all-powerful help, one of the most efficacious super 
natural methods is the apostolic training of devoted fellow- 
labourers, who may be better able to approach the sinner 
and work at his conversion than the ministers of God them 
selves. The general who trains good officers greatly in 
creases his chances of victory ; he who would do everything 
by himself will very soon feel his impotence, whatever 
his personal qualities may be. In heathen countries the 
missionaries, in their apostolic labours, employ the aid of 
catechists, true precursors, who prepare the way and 
dispose the pagans to receive the good news. This method 
is resorted to in all missionary countries, as much among 
the civilized nations of the Far East as among the negroes of 
Africa. In parishes where religious fervour is at a low 
ebb the number of sinners is often considerable ; and one 
of the first cares of a devoted shepherd should be the forma- 



SINNERS 13 

tion of a chosen band of Christians to act as his valuable 
lieutenants in the combat against evil. 

They will first help him by their prayers. Ten just men 
would have saved Sodom. How many modern Sodoms 
have been saved by the unknown saints who dwelt within 
them ! How many parishes remain solidly Christian, 
thanks to the blessing drawn down on them by the holy 
souls who live there, in spite of the fury of hell, in spite of 
all the active measures employed in these days by the 
enemies of the Church ! 

These fervent souls are of the greatest assistance in the 
work of reclaiming sinners. It is relatively rare that a 
sinner can be reached directly by the priest. The first 
steps towards his conversion are usually made by some 
zealous Christian, whether man or woman, whose good 
influence is exercised on the sinner with a gentle prudence 
that brings him back almost unconsciously to God. Now, 
it is especially the souls that are fundamentally pious who 
succeed in this kind of apostolate. 

20. If the priest cannot bring these veterans in sin into 
touch with some such true servants of God, he must himself 
labour to gain an influence over their minds by entering 
into friendly relations with them, showing sympathy with 
their troubles, lavishing on them every devoted care, and 
thus gaining their hearts. But at the same time let him 
not conceal his desire to win them to God, let him not 
omit any opportunity of giving them good advice in short, 
let him act as a priest in all circumstances, and show him 
self the true representative and follower of Jesus Christ. 

Let him preach especially by example ; the spectacle of 
a priest s holy life produces more impression on sinners 
than he is apt to imagine. Let him not seek to shine by 
an ostentatious display of learning, or by the brilliancy 
of merely human eloquence, or other qualities which 
are purely natural. The preoccupations of vanity, 
besides being exceedingly displeasing to God and apt to 
arrest the bestowal of His graces, by no means escape un- 



i 4 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

noticed, and, far from increasing, dimmish the prestige of 
the priest of Jesus Christ. Of course, there is no question 
of his aspiring to be taken for an angel, exempt from human 
imperfections. Let him be known as one who, though 
subject like his brother men to many an imperfection, and 
humbly acknowledging his failings, yet seeks by all the 
means in his power to overcome them, and by his generous 
efforts and persevering prayers obtains from God efficacious 
graces which little by little work his transformation. Then 
will his virtues preach better than his words ; the good will 
be encouraged to imitate them, and the very sinners will 
find their faith revive, and the desire to lead a more Chris 
tian life will spring up in them once again. 

21. As to the external measures for dealing with souls in 
a state of sin, we can divide them into two classes the 
methods which are slow and continuous, and those which 
are rapid and extraordinary. The first kind require greater 
perseverance, but they are more fruitful in results ; the 
hardened heart softens little by little, faith enters quietly in, 
and extends its empire insensibly until it has gained pos 
session of the whole soul. We can thus do a great deal of 
good to those who have grown old in sin by persuading 
them to make a habit of reading good books or newspapers, 
of often going to hear sermons, and of frequenting the 
company of enlightened and well-instructed Christians. 
Their ideas tend to become unconsciously modified ; the 
good examples which they see, and the good words which 
they hear, fall on their souls like the gentle dew from heaven 
upon a parched but still living plant. Under this influence 
the fruit will germinate, will develop, and, when it is ripe, 
will fall off by itself, and then an opportunity is all that 
will be required to finish the work of conversion. 

22. As to the extraordinary means, God often acts by 
them in a manner as sudden as it is potent in pilgrimages, 1 

1 By pilgrimages we mean, of course, real pilgrimages, such as that 
of Lourdes, which have a Christian atmosphere about them, and 
which are really admirable and touching manifestations of faith. 



SINNERS 15 

retreats, or missions. The results of these are even greater 
than could be expected ; the good are encouraged and 
strengthened, the fervour of the lukewarm is rekindled, 
secret sinners return to the path of virtue, and those who 
have been living in sacrilege revert to a right and reverent 
use of the Holy Sacraments which they have abused. As 
to public sinners, all are not converted, and even among 
those who are, all do not persevere ; but the good seed is 
sown in their hearts, and if God permits, the time will come 
when these past graces will bring forth their hidden fruit to 
the light of day. 

23. The kind of people of whom we are now speaking do 
not present themselves at the sacred tribunal of penance 
until the eve of their marriage day. Then, if there still 
remain in these hardened sinners some Christian senti 
ments, some recollections of a better life in the past, of a first 
Communion fervently made, it may be possible momen 
tarily to touch their hearts, and to induce them by the con 
sideration of the eternal truths to make good resolutions 
for the future. In any case, and however great their 
impiety may be, it is well to recall to their minds the 
importance of their religious duties, to show them how 
hateful in the sight of God is a life spent altogether without 
Him, without a prayer, without a thought of the Master 
Whom all must fear a life that treats Him to Whom we 
owe everything as if He did not exist. On such occasions 
we could not do better than recommend to the couple 
(especially when one of them has remained faithful to his 
or her religious duties) the excellent practice of prayer in 
common, and to exhort them to remain faithful to it from 
the first days of their marriage. 



1 6 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 



CHAPTER II 

DISSIPATED AND SENSUAL SOULS I THEIR PURELY NATURAL 

LIFE 

i. Dispositions of these Souls. 

24. " THERE are," says St. Teresa (Interior Castle, chap, i.), 
" very different ways of being in this castle ; many souls 
live in the courtyard of the building where the sentinels 
stand, neither caring to enter further, nor to know who 
dwells in that most delightful place, what is in it, and what 
it contains. 

" Certain books on prayer, as you have read, advise the 
soul to enter into itself, and this is what I mean. I was 
recently told by a very learned man that souls without 
prayer are like bodies palsied and lame, having hands and 
feet they cannot use. Just so, there are souls so infirm 
and accustomed to think of nothing but earthly matters 
that there seems no cure for them. It appears impossible 
for them to retire into their own hearts ; they are so accus 
tomed to be with the reptiles and other creatures which live 
outside the castle as to come at last to imitate their habits. 
Though these souls are by their nature so richly endowed, 
capable of communion even with God Himself, yet their 
case seems hopeless." 

Thus there are souls who only live an animal life, the life 
of the senses, in whom the Christian spirit is very un 
developed, and who are in great danger of being lost, as 
the Saint declares. 

25. Christians of this kind are numerous, even in favoured 
parishes. At first sight they can hardly be distinguished 
from true Christians ; the same cloak of religion covers both, 
just as the same uniform clothes both the brave and the 
cowardly soldier. But just as bad soldiers have nothing of 
the soldier about them but the dress, so for these people 
religion seems to be reduced to mere exterior formalities ; 



DISSIPATED AND SENSUAL SOULS 17 

it does not penetrate to the depth of their souls, and it 
exercises very little influence over their conduct or their 
life. 

In some cases, thanks to a Christian education, a good 
disposition, or other favourable circumstances, they have 
been preserved from glaring faults. They are relatively 
good, the world has a favourable opinion of them, and they 
do not merit any severe censure. These cases are, how 
ever, rare. The greater number commit grave sins from 
time to time, whether publicly or privately. Then, when 
they have to go to confession before Holy Communion at 
Easter, for instance they have still sufficient faith to elicit 
that degree of contrition which is just sufficient for absolu 
tion, and they turn over a new leaf for the time being. 
But their good-will is so weak, the eternal truths, which they 
hardly ever stop to consider, have made so little impression 
on them, that there is often good reason to be doubtful 
as to their repentance, and relapses are, so to speak, 
inevitable. 

These people only observe what is strictly necessary with 
regard to Christian practice. They assist at Mass on Sun 
days, and at rare intervals, and with many distractions, say 
a few vocal prayers. Spiritual reading, devotional exer 
cises, only fill them with weariness, and, indeed, they never 
think of them, so absorbed are they in material pre 
occupations. Their minds are not concerned with these 
things, and if some external influence should happen to 
bring them into the region of the spiritual world, they find 
themselves uneasy in these surroundings, and do not stay 
there long. 

The ordinary ideas of these souls, their habitual desires 
and preoccupations, the day-dreams which haunt their 
imaginations, are all purely natural ; scarcely ever, if at all, 
any more serious reflections inspired by faith ; never any 
desire for amendment. If they possess some little virtue, 
if they occasionally show capacity for self-denial, or sacri 
fice themselves for the sake of their relations or friends, it 

VOL. i. 2 



i8 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

is not that they are following the inspirations of grace 
their motive is a natural instinct or some purely human 
consideration. If they try to overcome their defects, it is 
far more from human motives than from Christian prin 
ciples rather to save themselves from the unpleasant con 
sequences of sin than to avoid the wrong-doing for fear of 
offending God. 

At long intervals, grace inspires them with some right 
feelings ; their faith is awakened ; some brilliant religious 
function or extraordinary circumstance produces a good 
impression upon them. So again, after falls, especially if 
of a graver nature than usual, they will feel some remorse ; 
but, in the ordinary course of life apart from these circum 
stances, they scarcely ever hear that still small voice of God, 
that gentle whisper which demands calm and recollection 
in the hearer non in commotione Dominus (3 Kings xix. n). 
The Lord speaks but rarely in the midst of tumult and con 
fusion, and these souls, altogether given over to dissipation, 
are scarcely capable of hearing Him. 

These unhappy ones can hardly, then, be said to lead 
a Christian life ; faith still lives in the depth of their 
hearts, but it is, as it were, torpid ; their days are empty of 
merit in the sight of God, and. their salvation is in great 
danger. They may be kept in this state by external cir 
cumstances ; if they are surrounded by Christian influences, 
and preserved from contact with bad company and from 
dangerous occasions, they will not commit grave errors. 
But if these external helps should happen to fail them if 
they should be, for instance, removed into infidel or in 
different surroundings, they will quickly lose their good 
habits, weary of their religious practices, and soon become 
like unto those who surround them. 

26. The state which we have just described is that of many 
young people who belong to careless families, and whose re 
ligious education is not yet completed. They hear the things 
of faith but rarely mentioned, and how are they likely to be 
able to avoid a life of frivolity and sensuality ? Other chil- 



DISSIPATED AND SENSUAL SOULS 19 

dren who have made some progress in the Christian life fall 
back into this state after their first Communion. During 
their time of preparation they succeeded in making some 
efforts ; the looking forward to this sublime act, combined 
with the numerous instructions and exhortations which 
they received, touched their souls and developed their 
faith ; but when these good influences cease, they relapse 
into their former state of torpor and frivolity, and are in 
great danger of slipping down the slope of evil and falling 
into the abyss. 

2. How to inspire these Souls with Better Dispositions. 

27. How must we set about the task of rousing these 
souls from their state of frivolity and inspiring them with 
some desire for the Christian life ? 

Let us say, once for all, that the two great means men 
tioned above as indispensable in the case of the conversion 
of hardened sinners, prayer and penance, are always the 
most powerful instruments in doing good to souls, whatever 
the degree of the spiritual life to which they may have at 
tained, and they will give a far greater efficacy to all the 
other means that we may seek to employ. The director 
ought never to forget that such persons as these, who are 
plunged in the life of the senses, cannot see the truth as 
clearly as he sees it, being blinded by their passions ; he must 
therefore abstain from urging on them certain considera 
tions, excellent in themselves, and of a nature to produce a 
good impression on more advanced souls, but beyond the 
capacity of those of whom we are treating. Above all, he 
must seek to enlighten them, and must therefore frequently 
recall to their minds the eternal truths heaven, hell, the 
goodness of God and His fatherly providence, the love 
which is so conspicuous in the Incarnation, the Eucharist, 
the Passion, insisting on the importance of eternal salva 
tion, the nothingness of this life compared to eternity. It 
is thus that St. Ignatius converted St. Francis Xavier, by 

2 2 



20 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

constantly repeating to him, though with prudence and 
kindness, these words of our Lord : " What does it profit 
a man to gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his 
soul ?" 

28. And while we try in this way to enlighten the under 
standing, we must also work upon the will, direct it to God, 
and help it to elicit such acts as it is capable of. And here 
the most practical point to insist on with regard to these 
souls is the regular habit of attentive prayer. While these 
prayers accustom them to act in a supernatural way, they 
will touch the heart of God, and obtain a more abundant 
light for their poor blinded souls. 

Our aim being to extricate these souls from this state of 
carelessness, and to inspire them with some desire for pro 
gress, we must make them realize how greatly we have their 
conversion at heart ; this will impress them more than the 

arguments. 

they fall frequently into mortal sin, the Holy Ghost s 
action on their souls will manifest itself only after their 
falls, when He excites uneasiness and remorse in their 
consciences. Disgust for sin, fear, shame, the desire to flee 
from vice such are the sentiments inspired in them by 
the Divine Spirit. The director must second this action of 
the Holy Ghost ; with all gentleness and compassion he 
must pity them, and share in their expressions of regret 
and their fears of falling unprepared into the hands of the 
Supreme Judge. Then he will remind them that if nature 
is weak, grace is powerful, and that the most guilty 
sinners have, with the help of God, returned to the paths 
of virtue. 

29. As to children who are in this state, they are, of course, 
less culpable than adults, for they have abused grace less, 
and thus they are more susceptible to happier influences ; 
but then, again, the thoughtlessness of their age causes the 
good impressions that they receive to be less durable. 

To do them any real good it will be necessary to bring 
them to the Sacrament of Penance once a month, even 



DISSIPATED AND SENSUAL SOULS 21 

before they have made their first Communion, and to urge 
them not to wait till the month is over, if they should have 
the misfortune to fall into mortal sin. We must also insist 
strongly on the necessity of serving God, and on the motives 
which urge us to work out our salvation. As a general 
rule, it will not be very hard to inspire good desires and 
good feelings in these childish hearts. 

The most common danger for souls that are still weak 
in virtue, comes undoubtedly from bad companions. How 
many children are thus led into evil ways ! How many 
young men and young women thus become accustomed, 
without the knowledge of their parents or masters, to listen 
to wicked and impious remarks which shake their faith, 
or to impure conversations which arouse their evil passions ! 
A prudent director warns them beforehand against this 
danger ; he does not wait for the evil to be done before 
proceeding to remedy it, but tries his best to forestall it, 
either by fatherly admonitions, or, if he suspects the pres 
ence of danger, by inquiring as to the company they keep 
and how they employ their time. Without this watchful 
ness, we run the risk of seeing the agents of the Evil One 
overthrow in a very short time the edifice which we have 
been at such pains to construct. 



22 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

THE PURGATIVE WAY 

INTRODUCTION 

30. WHEN a soul begins, in ever so small a degree to be 
exercised by a sincere desire to lead a Christian life, it enters 
on the purgative way, which is the first degree of charity. 

According to Suarez : " Charitas incipiens vocabitur ilia 
qua a concupiscenliis et aliis passionibus NONDUM MORTIFI- 
CATIS non solum impeditur ne facile et delectabiliter virtutem 
operetur, sed etiam in periculo peccati mortalis versatur. Et 
hie status dicitur pugncz et vice purgativa quia in illo prce- 
cipua cura debet esse resistendi concupiscentiis et mortifi- 
candi passiones, nutriendo simul et fovendo charitatem 
ipsam." 1 

Suarez, in this definition, only explains and develops the 
teaching of St. Thomas, who says : " Primo quidem incum- 
bit homini studium principale ad recedendum a peccato et 
resistendum concupiscentiis epis qua in contranum charitatis 
movent ; et hoc pertinet ad incipientes in quibus charitas 
est nutrienda vel fovenda, ne corrumpatur"* 

The purgative way, or way of beginners, therefore, is 
that in which the soul fights against sin, struggles with 
more or less success against its failings and vices, and if it 
should still fall from time to time, rises again, and is able to 
retrieve its faults. 

Saint Teresa divides the purgative way into two parts ; 
let us begin by seeing what she says of the first. 

1 The charity of beginners is that which, hindered by concupis 
cence and other passions not yet brought into subjection, finds 
neither facility nor pleasure in the exercise of virtue, and even goes 
in danger of mortal sin. This is what is called the state of conflict, 
or the purgative way, because the principal duty of souls in these 
dispositions is to resist their evil desires and mortify their passions by 
nourishing and developing charity. De Statu religiose, Lib. I., cap. iii. 

2 " In the first place, the principal duty involvent on a man is to 
turn away from sin and to resist all passions which are opposed to 
charity ; and this pertains to beginners, in whom charity must be 
cherished and strengthened, lest it be corrupted." (2, 2, q. 24, a. 9, e.) 



BOOK I 

FIRST DEGREE BELIEVING SOULS 
CHAPTER I 

PORTRAIT OF BELIEVING SOULS 

i. The Doctrine of Saint Teresa and of Blessed Henry 

Suso. 

31. " As far as I can understand," says St. Teresa, " the 
gate by which we are to enter the castle 1 is prayer and 
meditation. 

" I do not allude more to mental than to vocal prayer ; 
for if it is a prayer at all, the mind must take part in it. 
If a person neither considers to Whom he is addressing him 
self, what he asks, nor what he is who ventures to speak 
to God, although his lips may utter many words, I do not 
call it prayer." 

These souls who thus make the first step to enter the pre 
cincts of the castle " are still very worldly, yet have some 
desire to do right, and at times, though rarely, commend 
themselves to God s care. They think about their souls 

1 The castle, according to the Saint, is the place where God 
dwells, the paradise wherein He takes his recreation, as He Himself 
declares i.e., the soul of the just man (The First Mansion, 
chap. i.). When the soul enters into herself by prayer and 
consideration, she enters into this castle, and there finds her God. 
The Saint describes seven " mansions " in this castle, each more 
beautiful than the last, in proportion as the soul, becoming more 
faithful, unites herself more intimately to God, who communicates 
to her an ever-growing splendour. 

23 



24 :. THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

every now ancfthen ; although very busy, they pray a few 
times a month, with their minds generally filled with a 
thousand other matters, for where their treasure is, there is 
their heart also. Still, occasionally they cast aside these 
cares ; it is a great boon for them to realize to some extent 
the state of their souls, and to see that they will never reach 
the gate by the road they are following " (The First 
Mansion, chap. i.). 

"Although only the first mansion, this contains great 
riches, and such treasures that, if the soul can only manage 
to elude the reptiles dwelling here, it cannot fail to ad 
vance further." These reptiles are vicious inclinations, 
the love of pleasure, riches, and honours, from which the 
souls in this mansion are far from being detached. The 
danger for them is therefore great. As they are " still 
absorbed in the world, immersed in its pleasures, and eager 
for its honours and distinctions, the vassals of their souls, 
the senses and powers bestowed on them by God, are weak, 
and such people are easily vanquished, though desirous not 
to offend God " (ibid., chap. ii.). 

These souls have as yet but little light. They resemble a 
person entering a chamber full of brilliant sunshine, with eyes 
clogged and half closed with mud. The room itself is light, 
but he cannot see because of his self-imposed impediment." 

" Those conscious of being in this state must as often as 
possible have recourse to His Majesty, taking His Blessed 
Mother and the Saints for their advocates to do battle for 
them, because we creatures possess little strength for self- 
defence. ... To enter the second mansion it is [also] 
most important to withdraw from all unnecessary cares 
and business, as far as compatible with the duties of one s 
state of life " (ibid.). 

32. Let us compare this teaching of the reformer of 
Carmel with that which we read of the inhabitants of the 
first rock in the Dialogue of the Nine Rocks. 1 

1 A little German work of the fourteenth century, in which a 
vision of the Blessed Henry Suso, O.P., is related. It was long 



PORTRAIT OF BELIEVING SOULS 25 

" These inhabitants are lukewarm and cowardly souls 
who do not labour at the work of their perfection ; they are 
content with the will to avoid mortal sin, and this satisfies 
them until the hour of their death, and they never, during 
the whole course of their lives, think that more could be 
done. ... If they die without mortal sin, they will be 
saved, but they are in greater danger than they think for, 
because they imagine that it is possible to obey God and 
their nature at the same time. Now, it is very difficult, and 
in a sense impossible, to persevere thus in the grace of God. 
However, if they do persevere, they will be saved, but 
there awaits them a terrible purgatory, in which they will 
be forced to expiate by long and severe sufferings the grati 
fication of all their fancies, great and small ; and when 
they are purified, they will go to heaven to receive their 
reward and crown, which will be small and poor in com 
parison with the crowns destined for men of high courage ; 
for they have lived without fatigue and fought without 
energy or a generous love of God. . . . The demon has 
not the power to vanquish the dwellers on this first rock 
without their own consent. It is true that he has a good 
chance of leading them astray, because they live absorbed 
in the thoughts and business of the world, and love the 
honours, the pleasures, of nature, of the body, of the senses. 
They do not apply themselves to the work of their spiritual 
advancement . . . they know very little of the peace and 
joy of the soul, for to have that it is necessary before all 
things to combat nature and to vanquish it." 

thought to be the work of the saintly Dominican himself. Father 
Denifle, however, attributes it to Rulmann Merswin, who lived at 
the same epoch. However this may be, the little work is of real 
value, both from its antiquity and from the spiritual lessons which 
it teaches. 



26 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

2. Pious Practices, Interior Dispositions, and External 
Conduct of the Souls in this First Degree. 

33. Pious Practices. Souls of this first degree are those 
who devote themselves in some small measure to the prac 
tices of religion ; they meditate from time to time on 
spiritual things ; they have at least some conception of the 
greatness of God and the seriousness of their duties towards 
Him. They pray, and sometimes, when they need some 
temporal favour, pray with a certain fervour. 

Their piety does not go further than this. Recollection 
is a thing unknown to them ; devotional exercises have 
but little charm ; if circumstances oblige them to take 
part in them, they do so against the grain and without 
profit. 

34. Interior Dispositions. Thoughts suggested by faith 
are thus not altogether strangers to these Christians ; they 
do not arise spontaneously, but neither are any very extra 
ordinary events required to evoke them. If threatened 
with some trial, or if some misfortune seems about to 
overwhelm them, they at once have recourse to God and 
make their appeal to His goodness, for they feel immedi 
ately that He is their best Protector. Sermons, ceremonies, 
the feasts and solemnities of the Church, usually produce 
a good impression on them ; they prepare themselves to 
receive the Sacraments, if not with fervour, at least in a 
proper manner. 

We said that these thoughts suggested by faith do not 
arise spontaneously in their hearts ; in fact, except for the 
occasions first mentioned, in the whole course of their lives 
they think little about God ; their ordinary thoughts and 
preoccupations are altogether natural, and if you could 
read their hearts to the bottom, you would find that their 
desires, their dreams, hopes, and cares, are fixed, as a rule, 
on temporal advantages, and very seldom on those of a 
spiritual order. Their ways of looking at things, their 
judgments, and so on, are purely natural ; they have very 



PORTRAIT OF BELIEVING SOULS 27 

little perception of Divine things. Their resolution to 
remain faithful to God is nevertheless sincere, but it is 
without fervour or much stability. 

However, it is true that we often find amongst them, and 
even amongst Christians less good than they, sentiments 
of fidelity to the cause of God and of antipathy to the impious , 
so ardent and so strong that they would seem to presume 
a more perfect state of soul, a far more developed charity. 
How is it that they have so lively a faith when they have so 
little love ? It is very true that faith is a marvellous gift, 
in which the all-merciful dealings of God are revealed with 
extraordinary splendour. This supernatural virtue, so 
deeply planted in the human heart as to seem ineradicable, 
this disposition to accept the most profound mysteries 
without the least hesitation, this steadfastness which 
causes the believer to remain unshaken by the most de 
plorable scandals, the most specious objections, or the most 
terrible temptations all this, indeed, shows the hand of 
God. Even sin itself, unless it is directly opposed to faith, 
does not destroy it ; and if the sinner does not wish to throw 
off the yoke, if he continues to make acts of this virtue, his 
faith remains both profound and lively. It is not astonish 
ing, then, that this virtue attains to a great development, 
and this even when love is lukewarm and languid. We are 
inclined to think, however, that in the good dispositions of 
which we have been speaking all is not supernatural. 
Beside the sentiments inspired by grace, there are other 
analogous feelings which are purely natural, such as attach 
ment to the cause of religion, a certain human pride (which 
is, indeed, lawful enough) in a mind that feels itself in 
possession of the truth, which clings to its own opinion, 
and regards those on the side of error with contempt, and 
as adversaries to be combated. St. Francis of Sales, in his 
treatise on the Love of God (Book IV., chaps, ix., x.), speaks 
of a divine love, imperfect and natural, which accompanies 
true charity, and can continue to exist even when the latter 
is destroyed by sin. And he shows how, in this last case 



28 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

that is to say, when it survives true charity this imperfect 
love is dangerous, as being liable to put people on the wrong 
scent and make them think themselves better than they 
really are. It is the same with the natural sentiments 
with which we are dealing : they are good and useful when 
joined to an enlightened faith, but they may do injury to 
those whose conduct is not in accord with their principles, 
deceiving them as to their true state and blinding them 
as to its dangers. 

35. External Conduct. In their external conduct we at 
once notice that these souls know nothing of Christian 
abnegation ; they may make some efforts at distant 
intervals, but they have little stability, and dissipation 
of mind soon makes an end of their weak resolutions. 
These souls have natural rather than supernatural 
virtues. 

If they have been preserved from grave faults and have 
received a Christian education, they may be able to continue 
to avoid mortal sin and keep their horror of evil, and thus 
remain all their lives without either great faults or great 
virtues. In this category are a great number of souls who 
have been but little enlightened by the inspirations of grace, 
either because they are not very intelligent, or because, 
they have not received much education as regards piety. 
Having no very fierce temptations, they lead a quiet and 
correct life, but they do not seem destined for a very high 
reward. We are sometimes astonished at the little deli 
cacy of conscience which is to be found in souls who in the 
best possible faith imagine that their lives are almost blame 
less. This comes from their taking scarcely any heed 
except as to external acts of sin, and not thinking much 
of the evil motions of the soul, of the ill-restrained desires, 
or those interior feelings which are more or less opposed to 
the law of God. Such souls are indeed very frail, and some 
particularly dangerous occasion would be exceedingly for 
midable for them. If, on the other hand, they have known 
evil, they easily succumb to the least temptations, and may 



PORTRAIT OF BELIEVING SOULS 29 

thus fall into a state of indifference or habitual sin. As 
to venial sin, they, like the last named, trouble little about 
it ; they take no pains to combat their defects of character, 
temper, laziness, vanity, greediness, avarice, etc. ; they 
often have an affection for one or other of these defects, 
and therefore do not repent of it. Sometimes they recognize 
their faults, and, when the occasion is over, regret their 
weakness ; but with regard to these venial sins their pur 
pose of amendment is feeble enough, and there is little hope 
of improvement. 

36. Such are the common characteristics of Christians 
who inhabit this first mansion. " There are in this 
mansion," says St. Teresa, " many rooms." We can, in 
fact, divide these dwellers in the first mansion into the 
following classes : 

(1) Beginners i.e., children who are only entering 
on the Christian life, and certain converts who have but 
recently returned to God, and whose good dispositions are 
as yet but newly born. 

(2) Habitues i.e., Christians who have been long in the 
dispositions described above. 

(3) The Relapsed i.e., those who once had mounted 
higher, but have now fallen back into lukewarmness ; thus, 
Blessed Henry Suso saw multitudes go down again from 
the higher rocks to this first one. 



CHAPTER II 

THE DIRECTION OF THE SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 

How must we set to work at the perfecting of these souls 
who are as yet novices in the way of virtue ? 

Let, us first give the general rules which apply equally 
to all those who inhabit the first mansion. 



30 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

SECTION I. GENERAL RULES. 
i. How we must enlighten these Souls. 

37. Desire of a Higher Perfection. The souls in this first 
mansion have, as we have said, some desire for the Christian 
life, some esteem for piety and for the supernatural virtues. 
The more ardent this desire becomes, the more rapid will be 
their progress. We must therefore strive, by means of solid 
instruction and urgent private exhortations, to make them 
comprehend the beauty of Christian piety and the immense 
value of the advantages which it will procure for them. Does 
not God command us to work out our perfection Hcec est 
voluntas Dei sanctificatio vestra (This is the will of God, even 
your sanctification) ? St. John Chrysostom observes that 
this saying of our Lord is addressed to all Estate perfecti 
(Be ye perfect) ut sitis perfecti et integri in nullo deficientes 
(that you may be perfect and entire, failing in nothing), 
as the Apostle St. James exhorted the faithful (Jas. i. 4). 
" Take unto you the armour of God, that you may be 
able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things 
perfect " (Eph. vi. 13). " Blessed," said Jesus " are they 
who hunger and thirst after perfection, 1 for they shall 
have their fill." 

It will not be difficult to make the beginners understand 
that while they remain in their tepidity God will find them 
but sorry servants, with very little love or gratitude in their 
hearts. Do they, then, wish to continue for ever in this 
state of mediocrity, which gives occasion for so many de 
fects and sins ? Do they not desire, instead of remaining 
in the ranks of servants, and even of scarcely faithful ser 
vants, to become the friends of their God ? The Heart of 
Jesus, which burns with love for them, calls them to this 
state ; He has done everything to gain their affection ; 
the simple remembrance of His benefits, His sacrifices, His 

1 Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt justitiam. It is well known that 
in Holy Scripture justice is synonymous with moral perfection. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 31 

tender love, ought to be sufficient to excite them to a re 
ciprocal love and devotion. 

38. Besides these motives drawn from what is due to 
God and what God desires of us, there are our own most 
pressing interests to be considered. We have so much to 
fear if we neglect the work of our perfection, so much to gain 
if we devote ourselves to it with fervour. It is easy to 
demonstrate how lukewarmness, especially in these days, 
endangers our salvation. And it is equally easy and im 
portant to emphasize the advantages of godliness. Pietas 
ad omnia utilis est, promissionem habens vitce qua nunc est, 
et futurcB (Godliness is useful for all ; it carries with it the 
promise of the present life and of that of the future). 

39. Hope of attaining Perfection. But however envi 
able the state of perfection may appear, the Christians to 
whom we propose it will not feel the desire for it if they 
think it quite beyond their strength ; and so we must try 
to persuade them that, with God s help, it is an easy thing. 
Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat (I can do all things in 
Him Who strengtheneth me). Those multitudes, whose 
virtue now astounds us, had the same nature as ourselves, 
experienced the same difficulties, endured the same conflicts. 
Non potero quod isti et istce ? asks St. Augustine. 

40. The Inconstancy of these Souls. The desire of godli 
ness must be kept alive with great care in souls which have 
made but little progress. They are, in fact, unstable ; 
other cares, other preoccupations, come so quickly some 
times to carry away their newborn fervour. In order to 
preserve in them this desire for virtue, we must often insist 
on the considerations which first gave birth to it. We 
shall gain much if we can persuade them to read good books, 
but we must take care to choose those which excite their 
interest, such as certain lives of the Saints, which are as 
attractive as they are edifying ; for otherwise their good 
will will soon grow weary. 

Another cause of inconstancy in these souls is that the 
checks which they sustain in their battles against self, and 



32 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

their too frequent falls, often make them think that their 
efforts are of little avail. A zealous director will be able 
to sustain their courage and maintain alive in them the 
hope of attaining perfection. He will rejoice over their 
little victories, congratulate them on their efforts, however 
feeble ; he will seize the opportunity of the sacrifices that 
he has induced them to make, of the victories which they 
have gained, to point to the final triumph as an assured and 
certain thing. This great business of the sanctification of 
a soul is not the work of a day ; it sometimes requires long 
years of toil, but an invincible perseverance is always 
rewarded. 



2. How we must accustom these Souls to live Christian 

Lives. 

41. And while we labour thus to enlighten the dwellers 
in the first mansion, we must also introduce them into the 
true Christian life. This Christian life supposes : 

(1) A frequent intercourse with God in prayer. 

(2) A great fidelity in offering to God all our actions. 

(3) A great steadfastness in removing all the obstacles 
which would hinder us from serving Him. 

(4) Lastly, an intimate union with God through the 
Sacraments. 

We must therefore accustom these souls, who as yet have 
only caught a glimpse of the Christian life, to pray well, to 
act from supernatural motives, to practise self-denial, 
especially in the struggle against their faults, and, lastly, 
to receive the Sacraments well and devoutly. 

42. Prayer. There are two things which we must require 
of these novices regularity and a reverent attention. 
They must pray, and they must pray well ; we cannot insist 
too strongly on the importance and the mighty power of 
prayer, for this is a truth which they do not sufficiently 
understand. Again, in order to accustom them to pray 
with devotion, we must remind them from time to time that 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 33 

before praying they should reflect on what they are going to 
do, picturing to themselves the greatness and goodness of 
Him to Whom they are about to speak, and their extreme 
need of His help. At other times we may teach them to 
make the sign of the cross with reverence and attention, 
or, again, propose to them to form a certain definite inten 
tion in each prayer that they say. 

43. To do all for God. In order to accustom them to 
live a supernatural life, it is well from time to time to 
get them to give an account of the way in which, at the 
beginning of the day, they offered their works and their 
sufferings to God ; of the care which they have taken during 
the course of the day to renew this intention of doing every 
thing for Him ; and we should require them to examine 
their consciences on this point. If their different actions 
were always lifted to a higher plane by such Christian 
motives, would they not profit them for all eternity P 1 

44. The Removal of Obstacles. " Let him who would 
follow after Me deny himself." This is one of the funda 
mental maxims of the Christian life. Who is my chief 
opponent when I wish to do what is right ? Myself ; 
for the enemies of my soul, the world, and the devil, 

1 As to Christians who are in a state of grace, and consequently 
united to God, as to their last end, by charity, St. Thomas teaches 
that all their deliberate actions are meritorious acts of the super 
natural order, provided that they perform them with a good motive, 
because they necessarily tend to their last end, which is super 
natural. Cum caritas impevet omnibus vivtutibus . . . et cum omnis 
actus bonus ordinetur in ftnem alicujus virtutis, in finem charitatis 
ordinatus remanebit et ita meritorius erit, et sic comedere et bibere, 
sevvato modo temperantice, meritorium erit in eo qui caritatem habet, 
quia Deum ultimum ftnem vitcs sues constituit (Lib. II., Sent. 
Dist., XL., a. 5). Other theologians teach that a good motive 
does not suffice, and that every action, to be meritorious, must be 
inspired by one which is supernatural. However this may be, it is 
clear that an explicit intention of acting for the glory of God greatly 
enhances the merit, and that it preserves us from the danger of 
straying beyond the bounds of virtue by acting without reasonable 
motive, and merely to gratify nature. 

VOL. I. 3 



34 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

can do nothing against me if they do not find an accomplice 
in myself. 

" Self," says Pere Grou (Manuel des dmes interieures, 
p. 154), " is the origin and fount of pride, and consequently 
of all sin. It is the enemy of God, Whom it attacks in His 
universal and absolute dominion. It is the enemy of men, 
whom it turns one against the other, on account of their 
conflicting interests. It is the enemy of every man, because 
it estranges him from his true good, because it draws him 
towards evil, and robs him of peace and rest." 

Annihilate the human self, and all crimes disappear from 
the face of the earth ; all men live together like brothers, 
share their goods here on earth without jealousy, and mutu 
ally console one another in their misfortunes, each regarding 
his neighbour as another self. Annihilate the human self, 
and all man s thoughts, his desires, his actions, will turn 
towards God without any considerations of personal advan 
tage ; God will be loved, adored, served for Himself, because 
of His infinite perfections, because of His benefits. He 
will be loved whether He console man or afflict him ; whether 
He overwhelm him with benefits or put him to the proof ; 
whether He draw him lovingly to Himself or seem to reject 
and repulse him. Annihilate the human self, and man, 
always innocent, will pass his days in an unchangeable peace, 
because nothing either within or without can trouble him 
any more. The annihilation of self ought to be the con 
stant task of every true Christian, of every man who desires 
to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. And it is absolutely 
necessary to begin this battle against self from the very 
threshold of the spiritual life ; even at the most tender age 
we can do nothing solid or lasting without self-denial. 

45. The Struggle against Evil Passions. Christian self- 
denial ought to be directed chiefly against those defects 
that we recognize in ourselves. If beginners have to fight 
against some vicious tendency we must sustain and en 
courage them in this painful conflict. In order to obtain 
the victory, we should get them to make novenas from time 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 35 

to time, in which we should join them. We should put this 
intention before them as the object to be aimed at in their 
Communions ; and if some unusual opportunity arises, such 
as a great feast, a retreat, or a pilgrimage, we should 
remind them that this grace, before all others, must be made 
the object of their special supplications. To keep them 
from becoming hardened in sin, we should accustom them 
to repent of their faults without delay ; and when they accuse 
themselves of having fallen, we should inquire if they took 
care to ask God s pardon at once after committing the sin, 
and then give them a penance for the future, such as to 
throw themselves at the foot of the crucifix immediately 
after falling into sin, and implore God s mercy. 

46. Lighter Faults. As to venial sins, such souls think 
too little of these ; and so it is important to inculcate a 
great horror of them, and to order a special watchfulness 
as to this point. We should urge them to take their defects 
one after another, and to make a relentless war against each 
in turn. This is specially necessary for those who are 
sheltered from grave temptations and do not fall into mortal 
sin. 

47. Spirit of Mortification. These souls already have the 
opportunity of practising Christian self-denial by merely 
trying not to sin. But this is to remain on the defensive 
only, and in order to gain the victory it is good tactics to 
assume the offensive. Now, to assume the offensive in this 
case means to practise mortification and sacrifice. St. 
Teresa, as we have seen, mentions the giving up of all un 
necessary occupations as one of the conditions of progress 
for souls in the first mansion ; indeed, while superfluities and 
worldly cares entirely occupy the hearts of these Christians, 
how can they possibly make any progress ? We must 
therefore induce them to detach themselves in some degree 
from the inanities which enslave them. No doubt these 
sacrifices will not at first be very numerous or very severe, 
but this will come little by little ; especially, if we take care 
to make them comprehend in good time and we can 

32 



3 6 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

never do it too soon the great truth that the spirit of the 
Gospel is essentially a spirit of sacrifice. There are a 
thousand circumstances in which we might obtain some 
slight sacrifice from these souls : in the holy time of Lent 
we may ask them to practise some daily mortifications ; 
in the month of Mary we may point out to them that the 
best nosegay to offer to the Blessed Virgin is a series of little 
acts of self-sacrifice ; if they are seeking some temporal 
favour, making a novena, perhaps, with this intention, we 
may hint to them that if mortification is joined to prayer 
the latter becomes much more potent ; above all, we may 
tell them that the best method of preparation for Holy 
Communion is to perform some act of penance during the 
days which precede this great act. 

48. Sacraments, Communions. We have just spoken of 
Holy Communion, and this, in fact, is the great means 
which gives their power and efficacy to all the others. 
" If you eat not the flesh of the Son of God, you have no 
life in you." To lead these souls to more frequent Com 
munion, to teach them at the same time to prepare them 
selves well for their Communions such is the twofold end 
to aim at. How many souls are there, whose conversion 
was sincere but not lasting, because they only communi 
cated at distant intervals, and so were not strong enough 
to resist the attacks which followed their return to God ! 
How many others do hardly more than save appearances ! 
for though their external conduct is correct, yet they none 
the less remain immersed in mortal sin, save for the few 
moments which precede or follow their too infrequent 
Communions. If we can only get these beginners to ap 
proach the Holy Table with lively faith, and to make 
some effort to conquer themselves in their preparation, 
beside the absolutely requisite contrition, we need not be 
afraid to urge them to receive our Saviour frequently. 
And, once assured of that good-will, even though it is joined 
with much frailty, we have everything to hope for from 
their Communions. If Jesus enters often into their hearts, 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 37 

little by little they will become more enlightened ; the 
horror of sin will grow within them ; their progress, slow 
at first, will end by becoming perceptible, and the action of 
Divine grace will be manifest. It was the ordinary practice 
of the majority of Christians during the first nine centuries 
of the Church to communicate every Sunday j 1 shall we, 
perhaps, return to it ? For the souls which are as yet 
weak, though believing, weekly Communion would be the 
ideal, monthly Communion the minimum a minimum 
that we should ask for only when we despair of getting more. 
Experience, in fact, proves that if by a monthly or even a 
fortnightly Communion we can preserve in the right dis 
positions those who are well inclined and have no great 
temptations to contend with, it is rare that this practice is 
sufficient when there is any deep-rooted vice to eradicate 
rare that we gain through it any very notable progress in 
piety. 

49. We said that we must teach them to communicate, 
and by this is meant accustoming them to make a serious 
preparation. The indirect preparation, the necessity of 
which must be pointed out, will consist chiefly in application 
to prayer and in the practice of self-denial, as was explained 
above. The proximate preparation for these beginners 
will best be made by the help of those prayers which are 
so well known, the acts before and after Communion, the 
best of which are by St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

The fourth book of the Imitation will also prove of great 
service. Read on the eve of the Communion day, it will 
inspire feelings of devotion, and will put the heart in the best 
dispositions ; read after Communion, when the acts have 
been devoutly said, it will help to prolong the important 
exercise of the thanksgiving, and make it fruitful. 

Beginners are often very negligent in performing this 
duty of thanksgiving. They should exert themselves to 

1 The author s arguments have been authoritatively confirmed 
of late, by the Holy Father s recent instructions on Daily Com 
munion. EDITOR. 



38 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

pray ; they should recommend to God those who are dear 
to them, and make known to Him their own needs ; in a 
word, they should pour out their ardent supplication to 
their Divine Guest. It is the burning desire of Jesus to 
distribute His benefits with full hands, but too often the 
indifference of the communicant obliges our merciful 
Saviour to restrict His gifts. 



SECTION II. REMARKS ON THE DIFFERENT CLASSES 
OF BEGINNERS. 

We divided the dwellers in the first mansion into three 
classes of beginners i.e., children and the newly converted, 
the habitue s, and the lukewarm or tepid. 

i. Tepid Souls. 

50. With regard to this last class those souls, that is, 
who formerly served God with more fidelity, and have since 
fallen into a state bordering on indifference, they are much 
to be pitied, for they are indeed culpable. Above all, if 
they have known the sweetness and the consolations of 
devotion, we may without rash judgment affirm that they 
have since then been guilty of a terrible abuse of grace. 

Lukewarmness or tepidity is generally supposed to be 
due to a contempt for little things, or, again, to the obsti 
nate refusal to make the sacrifices that God requires of us. 
Thus, certain souls who are conscious of a call to a more 
perfect state turn a deaf ear to the voice of God ; others, 
who feel themselves urged in the depths of their souls to 
correspond better to the high vocation which they have 
embraced, recoil before the necessary sacrifices, and remain 
of their own choice in a sort of continual state of rebellion. 
This is the explanation of their heedlessness with regard to 
God, and of the little care that they have of their own 
spiritual interests. 

Again, some authors give affection for venial sin as the 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 39 

cause of lukewarmness, but in our opinion affection for 
venial sin constitutes rather than causes lukewarmness. 

Affection for a venial sin is not the inclination for this 
sin : it is a disposition of the will, accepting of deliberate 
intent and in a permanent manner the responsibility for a 
fault which pleases us. It is to make up one s mind to 
remain in this sin, to commit it whenever an occasion pre 
sents itself. We say of deliberate intent that is, with a 
thorough knowledge of the matter, with full understanding 
how wrong it is, and as a settled custom, or at least habitu 
ally ; for one may be ready to commit a sjn for the moment, 
under the influence of certain circumstances (for instance, 
in moments of weariness, irritation, or great excitement) ; 
but these bad dispositions are transitory, and do not 
amount to what is commonly known as the affection for sin. 

51. We shall make ourselves better understood if we 
show how and why a man can arrive at the state of falling 
habitually into venial sin without seeking to avoid it. 

(1) It may be by ignorance 1 or thoughtlessness. They 
scarcely think of it, hardly notice that they cling to certain 
vices, or even regard the matter as of little importance. 
Thus, lies told in joke or with the object of doing some one 
a service give little trouble to most Christians ; they must 
be enlightened to a certain extent, and fashioned by grace, 
in order properly to understand that these very faults, just 
because they are faults, must be avoided with the greatest 
care. Here, then, there is rather a want of enlightenment 
than a really guilty affection for venial sin. 

(2) In other cases there is not the same excuse of ignor 
ance or thoughtlessness. Either the soul is more enlight 
ened, or a more notable venial sin is in question. Then 
they understand well enough that they ought to correct 
themselves ; they have the desire to do so, but are, 

1 We, of course, refer to an involuntary ignorance. If the conscience 
has lost its delicacy by our own fault, by a long course of resistance 
to grace, the case would be different, for this culpable blindness would 
be the consequence of lukewarmness. 



40 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

unhappily, too cowardly. They hesitate, prevaricate, and 
finally give up the struggle. This disposition is worse than 
the former one ; if it is only transitory, it may not be very 
dangerous, but if it persists, it will lead to the state which 
we are about to describe. 

52. Persons of a sceptical and cynical turn of mind seem 
most exposed to fall into this sin. The devil makes great 
profit of this tendency in certain minds to blacken good 
ness, to ridicule virtue, mock at those who show zeal 
for their own progress and for the sanctification of their 
brethren, and to look only at the little side of good people, 
exaggerating their defects and depreciating their virtues. 
This obliquity of judgment comes from self-love. These 
banterers feel that they have little virtue themselves, so 
they get annoyed, and, not wishing to confess their in 
feriority, either to themselves or to others, they strive to 
belittle virtue itself and those who practise it, concealing 
their vexation under sneers and mockery. They do great 
harm to weak souls, who for fear of their sarcasms do not 
venture to do what is right, and so resist the inspirations 
of grace. Thus, they incur a terrible responsibility before 
God ; they do the devil s work, and are his unconscious 
instruments. To fall from this state into torpor and luke- 
warmness is but a short step. 

53. If this condition of lukewarmness is but recent, the 
director will find it less difficult to cure, but after some time 
tepid souls become hardened, and it is then very difficult to 
amend them. We know St. Bernard s saying : " You will 
more easily see a great number of seculars renounce vice 
and embrace virtue than one single religious pass from a 
tepid life to a fervent one." 

The higher a soul has risen in the days of its fervour, the 
more deplorable will be its fall, and the more difficult will 
it be to raise it up again. 

Such a soul had received, perhaps, exceptional graces ; 
God had, as it were, carrie^it.jji His fatherly arms ; He 
had removed all obstacleXmtfn ifsfway, had enlightened it 




N( LIBRARY]*] 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 41 

wonderfully ; devotion seemed sweet to it, and virtue full 
of charms. It lost all these graces through its own fault. 
When it once more feels the desire to return to its state of 
fervour, it imagines that from the first signs of repentance 
all will be made easy as before, but it waits in vain for this 
action of the Divine mercy. Jesus has passed by ; once 
repulsed, He will return no more until He is entreated 
with urgent prayer, and until His visit is merited by 
generous efforts. Graces will not be given gratuitously, 
as formerly ; they must now be won with toil and labour, 
and the greater and more powerful they were, the more 
guilty, consequently, will have been their abuse, and so 
much the more painful and laborious must be the efforts 
necessary to win them back. If St. Paul, on the road to 
Damascus, had resisted the voice from heaven, God would 
not have smitten him to the earth again. The satellites 
whom Jesus overthrew in the Garden of Olives despised His 
grace, and Jesus gave them no new sign of His power. 
However, as nothing is impossible to grace, we must try to 
enlighten these poor people as to the danger of their condi 
tion, and to inspire them with the desire of amendment. 
If we can get them to pray more attentively, to live in a 
more supernatural way, to deny themselves in something, 
to make better preparation for Holy Communion, the flicker 
ing light of conscience will burn brightly once more, and 
their love of God become more sincere and more practical. 



2. Belated Souls. 

54. As to those souls who have remained for long years 
in this condition without ever having been favoured with 
more conspicuous graces, the obstacle to their progress 
comes from their want of light and their inveterate preju 
dices. Accustomed as they are to their condition, they 
have ended by considering it quite satisfactory ; they are 
pleased with themselves, and it is not easy to make them 
esteem and desire a higher state of perfection. We may 



42 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

try, however, to treat them as far as possible in the way 
described above, but it will be only by force of prayer and 
sacrifice that we shall obtain their amendment from God, 
and arrive at a satisfactory result. 



3. Beginners Children. 

55. Finally, there are the beginners adults who have 
recently left a life of sin, or children who have been but 
lately born to grace. We have nothing special to say as to 
the first class. As to children, we must, in their case also, 
first make them understand all the value, all the advantage, 
of the Christian profession, and then accustom them to 
live such a life. A zealous priest, with his explanations of 
the Catechism, will give them wise advice as to the means of 
making their lives truly Christian. He will show them 
that the service of God consists chiefly in praying well, in 
offering Him all their actions, suffering patiently in sub 
mission to His will : in a word, in making the sacrifices that 
God demands of them obedience, industry, and those little 
acts of mortification which are suitable to their tender age. 

56. Let us give some examples of these practical lessons. 
If we are explaining the chapter of the Catechism which 

treats of God, after having proved His existence and 
explained His nature, we should dwell on His infinite 
greatness, His tender goodness, His fatherly providence. 
From these truths we should draw a lesson as to His merciful 
designs in our regard, and as to the folly and ingratitude 
of those who rebel against Him, and pass their lives almost 
without a thought of Him. At the next lesson we should 
recapitulate in a few words the teaching given in the 
former one, and ask the children if they have thought over 
what they owe to God, and if they have done their duty 
towards Him better than before. 

When treating of the soul, we should first explain its 
existence, nature, immortality, and so on, and then lay 
stress on the truth of that saying of Jesus Christ : Quid 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 43 

prodest hotnini si mundum universum lucretur, animce vero 
sua detrimentum patiatur ? (What doth it profit a man, 
if he should gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his 
soul ?) A well-chosen anecdote will make the lesson more 
striking, such as that of the missioner who, observing 
that a stable-boy attended to his horse with a great deal 
of care and affection, got him to admit that he devoted 
two hours every day to the care of the horse, and only a 
few minutes to the care of his soul, whereupon he wittily 
remarked: "As you care so little for your soul and so 
much for your beast, if I belonged to you I would rather be 
your horse than your soul." In the next lesson we should 
remind the children of this story, and ask them if they 
have profited by it, and not given more attention to their 
games or their dress than to their souls, and once more 
exhort them not to be so negligent. 

When -speaking of the sin of Adam, we should show them 
how immense was the goodness of God in sending His 
Son to redeem the world Sic Deus dilexit mundum, ut 
Filium suum unigenitum daret and how detestable the 
conduct of those who live in oblivion of so great a benefit. 
This is an opportunity (and we must never neglect one) of 
recalling all we owe to God, and inspiring in the children a 
horror of sin because it offends Him. 

57. It is also very important to insist strongly, from the 
beginning of the course, on devotion to our Blessed Lady, 
and to have several stories to tell the children about her, 
in order to convince them more forcibly of the power of 
Mary s intercession and her great goodness to us. 

When the Catechism deals with the four last things, we 
must try to explain to them in as vivid a manner ,as 
possible the awful duration of that eternity which awaits us 
all. There are comparisons with regard to this point which 
have become, so to speak, classical. Such is that of a globe 
as large as this earth, which, if a bird once in a century just 
brushed with its wings as it passed, would be worn quite 
away almost before eternity had begun. Such, again, is 



44 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

that of the ocean. We describe its vast extent, its length, 
breadth, and depth, and yet if one drop of water were 
taken out of it once in a thousand years, it would be emptied 
before a moment of eternity had, so to speak, passed. 
What a reward, what a chastisement ! What folly to 
commit mortal sin, what worse than folly to live in it ! 
This is another truth on which we must often dwell, because 
of its great importance. How good it would be if Christians 
were accustomed from their very childhood to this thought : 
" I am made for eternity, and so my life can have only one 
aim, to prepare for eternity !" 

The maxim of St. Aloysius : Quid hoc ad ceternitatem ? 
(What will this profit me for eternity ?) the story of the 
hermit whose good angel counted all his steps because 
everything he did was offered to God, the saying of St. Paul, 
" Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do 
all to the glory of God " (i Cor. x. 31), will furnish matter 
for excellent instructions. 

58. Again, what precious lessons may be drawn from the 
story of our Blessed Lord s life and Passion ! How much 
can be said on the Son of God coming down from heaven 
and taking our nature upon Him, in order to suffer and to 
die for us, on the abjection and privations of the crib, the 
humility of Nazareth, the trials of the public ministry, the 
sufferings of Calvary ! " Come," we may add, " let us be 
patient as He was, and from now till the next class let no 
one be angry. If you have something disagreeable to suffer, 
instead of complaining, say to yourself, Can I not suffer 
something for God, Who has suffered so much for me? " 

We see that the motives on which we must lay stress 
in order to induce young souls to serve God with generosity 
may be reduced to two : we owe it to God and we owe it to 
ourselves ; it is our duty and it is our interest. This is 
what we must repeat over and over again not two or three 
times only, but twenty or a hundred times, for these childish 
hearts are both easy to gain and easy to lose. The etching 
tool must be used repeatedly if we wish to engrave these 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 45 

important lessons deeply in their hearts. Thus it will 
be easy to reiterate the same recommendations and urge 
the same motives under different forms when treating of 
grace, the Sacraments, sin, the Commandments, or prayer. 

59. These instructions will be more efficacious still if we 
take care to repeat them in private after having taught them 
in our public catechizing. Thus, in confession we may make 
the children give an account of the efforts that they have 
made in the past month. " Have you profited by my 
advice the other day ? Have you followed the counsels 
that I gave you in your last confession ? Have you said 
your prayers better, been faithful in offering all your works 
to God, been more patient, known how to sacrifice your 
tastes and your own will to God, by being obedient, by 
working hard, and practising some little acts of self-denial ?" 

With such means we may hope to cure, as far as possible, 
that giddiness which is the great obstacle to goodness in 
young souls. For this same reason it will be well if he who 
conducts the prayers before the Catechism or the class 
should first remind the children of the duty of recollection 
and reverence. 

60. An excellent device for overcoming the thoughtless 
ness of children, for making them solicitous about their 
souls, is a practice made familiar by the Messenger of the 
Sacred Heart i.e., that of noting down every day the 
good works that have been performed. St. Ignatius, in 
his celebrated Exercises, advises beginners in virtue to 
make a table on which they may inscribe their faults, in 
order to help them in the important exercise of the par 
ticular examination, and thus aid them to correct their 
failings. The practice of which we speak is on the same 
principle. It is true that here we note down the good 
works, not the faults, but the result is the same. 1 

61. The children who were faithful to this habit would 

1 At the end of this work will be found a model of such a table, 
drawn up for the use of children who have not yet made their first 
Communion, 



4 6 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

gain much by it, and if besides this we can get them after 
their first Communion to receive the Blessed Sacrament 
frequently, the results will be both more immediate and 
more durable. 

After a first Communion rightly made, the child who has 
once tasted the goodness of the Lord and the sweetness of 
the Bread of Life, will willingly return to the Holy Table. 
Sin has as yet made little impression on the heart, and if 
it is not allowed to take root we shall soon find that the 
young soul shows signs of faith that are indeed consoling. 
On the other hand, the longer we wait, the stronger the bad 
habits will have become, and the more difficult it will be 
to get them to contract good ones. 

And here we may recall that maxim of Ovid, which is 
quoted in the Imitation of Christ : 

Pvincipiis obsta : sero medicina paratur 
Cum mala per longas invaluere moras. 

Alas ! we shall perhaps not have to wait very long. If 
Christian parents would only realize this truth, far from 
putting obstacles in the way of their children communicat 
ing frequently, they would encourage it. But many of 
them, even when the evil is done, hardly recognize the 
responsibility they have incurred by encouraging these 
young souls to wallow in sin, and thus preparing them for a 
pitiable existence. 

62. We must, therefore, profit by that attraction for 
the Holy Eucharist which a first Communion, made after 
a careful preparation, will produce in the soul of the child. 
Feeling an earnest desire to return to the Holy Table, he 
will the more readily make the necessary efforts efforts 
that it will be difficult to obtain of him later on if he has 
not acquired the habit early. A schoolboy seldom finds 
any great difficulty in communicating on Sunday, but for 
an apprentice or a young artisan or labourer the obstacles 
may be considerable ; it demands a much stronger and more 
energetic act of the will, and a much more ardent desire for 
the Holy Eucharist. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE FIRST DEGREE 47 

Evidently, this ardent desire for Holy Communion will 
not be found among souls who have been long absent from 
the Holy Table, especially if they have contracted bad 
habits, as there is too much reason to fear may be the case. 
We know of priests who, having tried to institute a monthly 
Communion among their young men, have had to give it 
up, because they did not find them in sufficiently good 
dispositions. They waited too long, we think, and also 
asked too little. 

In fact, we ought to recognize that for a great number 
of Christians, and young men especially, a monthly Com 
munion is quite insufficient. Their passions are often so 
strong, the conversations that they hear are so bad, the 
occasions of sin which they have to encounter are so 
numerous, that to resist for a whole month without having 
imbibed fresh strength from the Holy Eucharist is almost 
beyond their power. A Communion once a fortnight is 
much more efficacious than a Communion once a month, 
but a weekly Communion is far better still. 

63. The First Communion, then, should be but a begin 
ning, an initiation, an initial step in the Eucharistic % way. 
Instead of this we are too apt to consider it as the end of 
the efforts made during the year s preparation, as an act 
which would lose its importance if it were repeated too 
often. Thus, instead of training children to live the 
Eucharistic life, to make this Divine nourishment a 
necessity of their existence, we very soon accustom them 
to do without Holy Communion, which has become an 
exceptional thing, and to regard it as quite natural to 
spend long months without approaching our Divine Lord. 

But, people say, children are not serious enough. As if 
God did not know their weakness, and would exact a serious 
ness above their years. The Apostles in like manner thought 
that the little children were not worthy to approach our 
Saviour, and Jesus reproached them for it : Sinite parvulos 
venire ad me (Suffer the little children to come unto Me). 

But, it is said again, is it not to be feared that these 



48 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

children will stray from the right way later on ? And 
even if this were to happen, even if by reason of the short 
ness of time, during the few years that we are able to 
influence them, we should fail in making them so steadfast 
in virtue as to be invincible in the midst of the world and 
all its dangers, is that a reason for not trying our very best 
while we are able to do them good ? And even those who 
go astray may one day return to God, and then their past 
merits will come back to them, and their conversion will 
be more sincere and more profound. 1 

64. We see, then, that solid instruction, education in 
Christian self-denial, and frequent recourse to the most 
holy Eucharist, are what we must chiefly insist on in the 
Christian training of children. It is impossible not to 
gain some fruit by this kind of grounding, for could God 
refuse to bless a zeal so full of solicitude ? Jesus Christ 
said to His Apostles : Ego elegi vos et posui vos ut eatis, 
et fructum afferatis, et fructus vester maneat I have 
chosen you and have appointed you, that you should go 
and should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should 
remain (John xv. 16). Yes, the fruit will remain, the 
seed thus sown will germinate, and will go on ever growing ; 
it will be the beginning of a really serious and intelligent 
Christian life, and even if some who have been trained in 
this way should later on give up their religious practices, 
all will not be lost ; they will retain a lively remembrance 
of their early teaching, a more complete and enlightened 
idea of the Christian life, which will render their conversion 
later on much more easy and more consoling ; it will be the 
fire still glowing in the embers, which the lightest movement 
of the breath of grace will be sufficient to rekindle. 

1 A good way of combating the widespread prejudices with 
regard to, or rather against, Communion for children, over and above 
the sermons and catechizing on the subject, is to distribute amongst 
the children and to have read in then: homes those excellent little 
books of Mother Mary Loyola, A Simple Communion Book, and 
A Simple Confession Book, and Counsels on Holy Communion, by 
Mgr. Segur (C.T.S.). EDITOR. 



BOOK II 

SECOND DEGREE GOOD CHRISTIAN SOULS 
CHAPTER I 

PICTURE OF THE SOULS WHICH BELONG TO THE SECOND 
DEGREE 

i. The Doctrine of St. Teresa. 

65. " Now let us consider," says St. Teresa, " which are 
the souls that enter the second mansion, and what they 
do there. ... In this part of the castle are found souls 
which have begun to practise prayer ; * they realize how 
important it is for them not to remain in the first mansion, 
and yet often lack determination to quit their present 
condition by avoiding occasions of sin, which is a very 
perilous state. However, it is a great grace that they 
should sometimes make good their escape from the vipers 
and poisonous creatures around them, and that they 
understand the need of avoiding them. . . . 

" These souls hear our Lord calling them ; for as they 
approach nearer to where His Majesty dwells He proves a 
loving neighbour, though they may still be engaged in the 

1 We must remember that the saint, when she wrote these 
words, had just said (First Mansion, chap, i.) that she understood 
by this not mental prayer only, but vocal prayer also, provided that 
it was accompanied by considerations and pious reflections. As we 
shall see, many good Christians, who have never practised mental 
prayer, properly so called, but who have known how to nourish 
and increase their faith by other means, must be placed in this 
second category. 

VOL. I. 49 4 



50 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

amusements and business, the pleasures and vanities of 
this world. While in this state we are continually falling 
into sin and rising again, for the creatures amongst whom 
we dwell are so poisonous and vicious, and their company 
so dangerous, that it is almost impossible to avoid being 
tripped up by them " (Second Mansion, chap. i.). 

When a soul has given itself with some earnestness to 
the service of God, when it has persevered for a considerable 
time, the light of grace grows brighter within it, faith 
develops, and conscience becomes more sensitive. It has 
doubtless not yet emerged from the purgative way, for 
the struggle is still sore ; there must needs yet be long 
conflicts before the bad natural tendencies are weakened, 
especially when the soul has lived for a long time in an 
inferior state where these tendencies have grown strong. 
However, the soul has now arrived at a higher degree of 
the purgative way. 



2. Distinctive Characteristics of this Second Mansion. 

66. Practices of Devotion. Souls in the second mansion 
are those who, besides the ordinary prayers, have recourse, 
willingly, indeed, but without great fervour, to supererog 
atory practices of devotion, such as telling their beads 
and assisting at weekday Mass. We said " without great 
fervour." Sometimes, however, you will see them pray 
with all their hearts. Is it the breathings of Divine grace 
which move them ? This recollected demeanour, these 
burning aspirations, these heart yearnings are they the 
effects of a lively and sudden devotion ? We must acknow 
ledge that nature has a great share in all this. When we 
inquire the object of these fervent prayers, we shall find 
that it is some temporal favour earnestly desired, or to be 
saved from some trial, but never, or very seldom, purely 
spiritual blessings. 

Such souls communicate often ; not that they experience 



SOULS WHICH BELONG TO THE SECOND DEGREE 51 

much sweetness in their Communions, but they understand 
the greatness of the act, and they are readily induced to 
make a serious preparation for it. But if they are easily 
led to practise some devotional exercises they also very 
easily give them up again, and if they are not kept up to 
the mark become extremely negligent. 

67. Interior Dispositions. Although the souls who dwell 
in this mansion are for the most part preoccupied with 
natural cares, yet ideas connected with religion are 
more frequent with them than with those in the first 
mansion. However, even here they do not as a rule arise 
spontaneously. " They come," says St. Teresa, " by 
discourses heard from good people, or from sermons, or 
by reading pious books, or many other ways which are 
well known, such as by sickness and adversity ; and also 
He causes certain truths to shine into the soul in times of 
prayer, for however remiss this prayer may be, yet God 
esteems it greatly." 

It is, so to speak, a state of intermittent piety. We say 
piety because the soul desires not only to correct its faults 
but also to progress in virtue ; but these desires are intermit 
tent. It experiences them, for instance, at confession or 
Holy Communion, or when hearing a sermon ; in a word, 
on the various occasions mentioned by St. Teresa ; but 
apart from this, the desire for progress is seldom manifested. 
The soul is also more determined to remain faithful to God. 
Such souls, however, are in reality far less constant in this 
respect than one would imagine, or than they themselves 
suppose, for they are often ignorant of their own weakness. 

68. External Conduct. Christian self-denial is beginning 
to appear. From time to time the soul makes an effort 
to overcome itself, and is even capable of serious acts of 
mortification, but without much perseverance. Grave sins 
are rare, except when some dangerous occasion presents 
itself, for then these souls which are good but frail soon 
succumb. Another exception, in the case of souls who have 
already had acquaintance with the evil, is any violent 

42 



52 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

temptation against holy purity, for then these imperfectly 
mortified souls are not strong enough to overcome them. 

In the first mansion the soul still had but little 
horror of venial sins. It too easily committed deliberate 
venial sins even without any violent excitement of 
the passions. " What I am doing is not right, but it 
does not signify." In the second mansion the soul avoids 
these small sins with more care ; but when it is a case of 
self-interest, when the passions are aroused, when suscepti 
bility, self-love, vanity, or sensuality assail it, or, again, when 
it is afraid of some worry or annoyance, it sins with open 
eyes and full consent. " After all," it says to itself, " it is 
not so very serious." It is true that when the occasion is 
past and the passions appeased, it sincerely regrets having 
yielded, but a relapse is still much to be feared. These 
persons are not attached to their faults, but they have not 
really at heart the work of struggling against them all. 

Christians who have arrived at this degree of the 
spiritual life have, then, the appearances of piety without 
any true devotion. As we have just said, they sometimes 
fall into lamentable errors, and even from time to time 
indulge in most unedifying language. For these reasons they 
are sometimes very severely criticized, they are taxed with 
hypocrisy and insincerity, while, as a matter of fact, their 
faith is sincere in the main, and their good dispositions 
are real. A director must beware of such severe judgments, 
and remember that these souls are unstable but not 
hypocritical. 

It is likewise on account of their inconstancy, the rapid 
alternations of their good and evil moments, the mixture 
of religious sentiments and a worldly spirit which is found 
in them it is on account of all this that certain Christians 
do not give God s cause the support that one would expect 
of them. We shall not change them by invectives or bitter 
reproaches ; it is rather by aiding them to lead a more 
devout life that we shall be able to inspire them with the 
self-forgetfulness and devotion of the true soldiers of God. 



SOULS WHICH BELONG TO THE SECOND DEGREE 53 

69. Such are the general characteristics of this second 
mansion. There are from time to time real aspirations 
after spiritual progress, but virtue still seems a very difficult 
thing to acquire, and, as a rule, there are still weary 
struggles to be endured. 

Some souls there are, however, who have not advanced 
beyond this degree, and yet they do not undergo any violent 
assaults. They must be reckoned as belonging to the 
second mansion because they have not that intense longing 
after virtue which is felt by more advanced souls, or those 
more abundant lights and that ardent faith which are the 
characteristic signs of the illuminative way. A great 
number of Christians are in this state. Without having 
frequented the Sacraments much, or cultivated mental 
prayer, they are yet firmly established in goodness. They 
keep themselves apart from the dangers of the world, and 
are also preserved from its perils by their horror of the 
wicked and even of the worldly. On the other hand, the 
good education which they have received, the habitual 
intercourse with virtuous people, the profit that they have 
derived from sermons and the other external aids of 
religion, their fidelity to the duties of their state of life all 
this has developed their good dispositions. We notice in 
them a supernatural life of faith, a sincere love of the 
Church, and a true zeal for her interests. Some of them are 
valuable auxiliaries for the priest, for they are greatly 
attached to God s cause, and they bring to the service of 
religion natural qualities which are sometimes remarkable 
and great self-devotion. These souls only need a more 
complete spiritual training to make great progress in the 
spiritual life. 

70. Finally, it appears to us that certain children and 
young men, and, above all, numbers of young girls, should 
be ranked among the inhabitants of the second mansion, 
though they have no great conflicts to endure. These are 
persons whose failings are not greatly developed, and who, 
besides, have been preserved from the infections of vice. 



54 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Their growing piety does not encounter great obstacles, 
and if their conduct is satisfactory they advance gradually 
towards the third mansion, which is that of true piety. In 
fervent parishes and in well-managed colleges and boarding- 
schools, and even in primary schools where Holy Com 
munion occupies its right place, such souls are numerous, 
and give good grounds for hope to the priest s heart. 



3. How the Souls in this Second Degree may Relapse 
or become Stationary. 

71. The condition of the souls which, according to 
St. Teresa s teaching, we have placed in the second man 
sion, is not, indeed, a state of high perfection, but yet it 
supposes that a certain part of the way has been traversed, 
and that the soul has received a goodly number of graces. 
Among these graces we have mentioned a truly Christian 
education, or the good influence of virtuous surroundings. 
Perhaps these souls have practised their duty faithfully, 
and have found in this fidelity, if not very great sensible 
consolations, at least that satisfaction in duty well done 
which strengthens good dispositions and facilitates per 
severance. 

But we see that certain souls who have reached this 
point fall back again miserably. Others, again, remain there 
without proceeding further, while some advance and rise 
insensibly to a higher degree of perfection. The difference 
between them depends chiefly on the manner in which they 
endure the trials which Divine Providence sends them. 

72. The first of these trials is the taking away of those 
helps which they had enjoyed, and which specially 
nourished their piety. These souls, for instance, were sur 
rounded by an extremely religious family, or were in a 
college where everything encouraged them to do right, and 
now, all of a sudden, they are removed from these favour 
able conditions, and thrown into the midst of a very 



SOULS WHICH BELONG TO THE SECOND DEGREE 55 

different set of people, where they have much less help 
and are exposed to indifference, to worldliness, and often 
to vicious examples. If they resist, as is their duty, they 
become more constant and more generous, and the trial 
will only have served to purify their virtue and increase 
their merits, which was the end for which it was sent by 
Divine Providence. But this trial is a very dangerous one 
for souls that are not fundamentally pious. Many succumb 
to it ; worldly anxieties, the worries and cares of an often 
harassing life, material considerations, absorb all the atten 
tion of these poor souls ; all care for their sanctification 
dies away, and they relapse into indifference and tepidity. 
They give up the Sacraments, or only receive them at long 
intervals ; they neglect their prayers, and this brings about 
a diminution in the graces that they receive, and at the 
same time venial sins multiply and produce the most fatal 
results. 

" The ruin of souls," says Pere Lallemant, 1 " comes from 
the multiplication of venial sins, which cause the diminution 
of Divine lights and inspirations, of interior graces and 
consolations, and of the fervour and courage necessary to 
resist the attacks of th< enemy. Hence follow blindness, 
weakness, frequent lapses, habits of wrong-doing, insensi 
bility, because when once a man has conceived the affection, 
he sins without noticing his sin." 

This great evil is easier to prevent than to cure. It is 
therefore important to warn souls of the dangers they will 
run when deprived of the means of salvation which God is 
then lavishing upon them. We thus inspire in their hearts 
a salutary fear, induce them to pray more, to recommend 
their future life to God, and to form serious resolutions for 

1 Doctrine Spirituelle, 3 Principe, chap, ii., p. 132 (Paris, 
Lecoffre, i fr. 25). Pre Lallemant, whose name will recur more 
than once in the course of this work, was one of the most celebrated 
religious of the Society of Jesus. He was favoured during life with 
extraordinary gifts, and died at Bourges in the odour of sanctity, 
April 5, 1635. Peres Surin, Nouet, Rigoleuc, and the Venerable 
P. Maunoir, were among his disciples. 



56 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

the hour of danger. The more they are on their guard, the 
greater will be the likelihood of victory. At the critical 
moment we must take care to surround them with a yet 
greater solicitude ; and when this is impossible, to recom 
mend them earnestly to God, who can, when He so wills, 
bring good out of evil, and Who sometimes grants unex 
pected helps to these poor souls. 

73. Again, the relapse of these souls comes frequently 
from discouragement. They are harassed by temptations 
which are often very formidable, and to which they too 
often succumb, and thus they end by losing all hope of 
amendment ; they have not enough fear of God s justice, 
and especially not enough confidence in His unwearied 
mercy. Whatever their faults and failings, so long as they 
are not discouraged, so long as they continue to pray and 
to struggle, their faith, their desire to do better, cannot 
weaken j 1 but as soon as the devil (for this is his work) has 
succeeded in communicating to them some part of his 
infernal despair, their dispositions are no longer the same. 
It is not the frequency of their falls alone which brings 
about this miserable condition of soul. Wounded self-love, 
through the vexation which it produces, leads to the same 
result ; and thus come about those effects just described by 
Pere Lallemant : the weakening of good dispositions, blind 
ness, frequent falls, and insensibility. 

Thus it is that these Christians, after making some 
progress in virtue, fall back again if they are not capable 
of profiting by the various trials which they meet with. 

74. Many others remain always stationary. The time 
of trial does not find them very unfaithful, but neither does 

1 " Certain falls into mortal sin do not prevent the soul from 
making progress in devotion, provided that it has no design of 
remaining immersed therein, and does not sink down into the sleep 
of sin. Although the soul loses the grace of devotion on thus 
falling, yet it recovers it at the first real contrition that it experiences 
for its sin, even, as I said, when it has not been steeped in this mis 
fortune for a length of time" (St. Fra^ois de Sales, Letter to a 
Lady, edition Briday, vi., 404). 



SOULS WHICH BELONG TO THE SECOND DEGREE 57 

it result in any great acts of virtue. The aim of the Divine 
wisdom in sending them these trials is to give them the 
opportunity of exercising their faith, their confidence, and 
their love ; unhappily, however, their efforts are weak and, 
above all, intermittent. One day they are all diligence, 
the next they are -distracted and nerveless ; occasionally 
they give proofs of courage and generosity, but these 
fervent days are the exception rather than the rule. Want 
of thought, heedlessness, yielding to circumstances, have 
far too much part in their lives ; they make some show of 
fight against their failings, but without bringing enough 
vigour or perseverance to the combat. These transitory 
efforts, this sort of half-generosity, the few victories that 
they gain, keep them from falling lower, but they are not 
sufficient to raise them higher. 

75. If they are obliged by their state of life to tend to 
wards perfection, this disposition is exceedingly dangerous 
for them, for it supposes a great abuse of grace. These are 
the people that Pere Lallemant had in view when he said : 
" There are religious who refuse nothing to their senses. 
If they are cold, they warm themselves ; if hungry, they 
eat ; if some amusement suggests itself, they take it un 
hesitatingly ; they are always resolved to please themselves, 
and have hardly any practical knowledge of what mortifica 
tion is. They acquit themselves of their spiritual functions 
for form s sake, without any heart, without unction, and 
without fruit. . . . They examine their consciences in an 
extremely superficial manner. Steeped thus in oblivion 
of their own hearts, they are engrossed with an infinite 
variety of objects that are constantly occupying their 
minds, and they are, as it were, intoxicated and carried out 
of themselves by the bustle and confusion of external 
affairs. These religious may often be in greater danger 
than seculars." Assuredly, such people in no way respond 
to God s designs upon them, and they have hardly profited 
by, and often greatly abused, the graces which have been 
offered them. 



58 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

76. Others remain stationary without being very blame 
worthy ; these are less favoured Christians of whom God 
does not seem to demand a lofty degree of perfection. It 
may happen that without mounting higher, while still 
dwelling in this second mansion, they arrive at a state which 
is all but satisfactory and not without merit. Their faith 
is lively, and even continues to get clearer and brighter ; 
their resolution to be faithful to God is sincere ; their 
sentiments are praiseworthy ; but their love always remains 
weak, and their spirit of mortification is very imperfect. 
Often, however, after they have remained a long time in this 
state, we find them suddenly making a generous start, and 
advancing with firm steps on the way of perfection. It is, 
in fact, the most common course for Divine Providence to 
leave these souls for a more or less lengthy period in this 
intermediate state of semi-piety, or fidelity without great 
fervour. Then, when God deems them ripe for new graces, 
He metes out to them some favourable circumstance of such 
a nature as to give them special encouragement in their 
progress ; a fervent retreat, for instance, a change of situa 
tion which detaches them from the hindrances of a worldly 
or over-busy life. Again, it may be friendship and inter 
course with devout and holy people, or meeting with a 
zealous director ; or sometimes a trial, a bereavement, or 
some great sorrow which is borne courageously and 
faithfully. In these various circumstances grace works 
powerfully in their souls, which are already well dis 
posed ; it enlightens their minds and enkindles their hearts. 
Then the supernatural virtues, the germs of which are al 
ready within them, are practised and grow stronger, and 
these Christians enter upon a new life of faith and true 
piety. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 59 

CHAPTER II 

DIRECTION OF THE SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 

SECTION I. SOME GENERAL PRINCIPLES IN SPIRITUAL 
DIRECTION. 

77. IT is at this point of the spiritual life that souls begin, as 
a rule, to feel the need of direction ; at least, it becomes 
more easy to elicit from them those intimate outpourings 
of the heart which permit the director to know them better, 
and thus to guide them more surely on the way of perfec 
tion. 

This direction should be paternal, firm, supernatural, 
and practical. 

i. Direction should be Paternal. 

78. It is necessary that the directed (especially if they 
have not yet much zeal for advancement) should feel that 
an interest is taken in them, and that out of love for their 
souls their progress in virtue is earnestly desired. " Be 
sure/ says Pere Lallemant, " that you will have done more 
for their perfection if you have gained their hearts than if 
you have given them the best possible instructions without 
doing so. In this way you will compel them to feel a 
reciprocal affection for you, and a filial confidence which 
will cause them to open their whole hearts to you, and to 
confide all their little interests into your hands." 

To make himself all things to all men, after St. Paul s 
example, is the first duty of a director : Omnia omnibus fac- 
tus sum, ut omnes facer em salvos (i Cor. ix. 22). We find in 
this great Apostle a perfect model of what the priest ought 
to be in his dealings with souls. He reminds the faithful 
unceasingly and we know with what conviction he speaks 
of the fundamental maxims of the Gospel, renunciation, 
the dying to self in order to live only to God, the struggle 



60 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

with the old man, and perfect detachment ; but how well 
he knows how to make these austere maxims acceptable 
by dint of kindness and a tender and holy affection ! In 
almost every page of his epistles we find these accents of a 
truly fatherly tenderness towards his children. 

We see how he thanks God for the graces which are given 
them in Jesus Christ j 1 how great is his solicitude for all 
their needs, both temporal and spiritual ; how he takes his 
share in all that they feel joys and sorrows, anxieties and 
hopes himself practising most admirably that which he 
recommends so forcibly to others : Gaudere cum gaudentibus, 
flere cum flentibus. 2 How many times he assures them, 
confirming it even with an oath, that without ceasing he 
makes commemoration of them, 3 always in his prayers, 
remembering them by night and day, 4 longing greatly to 
see them. 5 He says to the Corinthians : In cordibus nostris 
estis, ad commoriendum et ad convivendum 6 (You are in our 
hearts, to die together, and to live together). He often 
begs for the help of their prayers. 7 He energetically 
protests that he belongs to them absolutely : Omnia vestra 
sunt, sive Pauhis, 8 etc. ; that he is altogether a debtor to 
them : Greeds ac Barbaris, sapientibus et insipientibus 
debitor sum ; 9 that he desires only one thing, and that 
is to spend himself in their service : Ego autem lib en- 
tissime impendam, et superimpendar ipse pro animabus 
vestris ; and yet, he adds with a tone of gentle reproach : 
The more I love you, the less I am loved." 10 

He rejoices to suffer for them : Nunc gaudeo in passionibus 
pro vobis. 11 He refers all that he experiences afflictions, 
consolations, encouragement to the profit of their souls. 12 
For their sakes he consents to see the postponement of the 
object of his most ardent desire, the eternal possession of 
God, union with Christ : Desiderium habens dissolvi et esse 

1 i Cor. i. 4; 2 Cor. iii. 2 ; i Thess. ii. 19, 20, etc. 

Q Rom. xii. 15. 3 Rom. i. 9. 4 Passim. 

6 Rom. xv. 23 ; i Thess. ii. 17, 18 ; iii. 10. 6 2 Cor. vii. 3. 

7 Rom. xv. 30, etc. 8 i Cor. iii. 22. 9 Rom. i. 14. 
10 2 Cor. xii. 15. " Col. i. 24. 12 2 Cor. i. 6. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 61 

cum Christo . . . permanere autem in came necessarium 
propter vos. 1 He delights in affectionately reminding them 
of all that he has done for them, in repeating to them all that 
their conversion has cost him. 2 He says to the Thessa- 
lonians : " Whereas we might have been burdensome to 
you, as the Apostles of Christ ; but we became little ones in 
the midst of you, as if a nurse should cherish her children. 
So desirous of you, we would gladly impart unto you, not 
only the Gospel of God, but also our own souls, because you 
were become most dear unto us." 3 

" What is my hope and my joy and my crown of glory ? 
Is it not you who are this before our Lord Jesus Christ, 
and will be so again at the day of His coming ? Yes, you 
are my glory and my joy." " A father and a mother," 
says St. John Chrysostom, " if they united their love in one, 
could say nothing more tender than this." It is with the 
same accent of fatherly tenderness that he writes to the 
Corinthians : " If I make you sorrowful, who is he then that 
can make me glad ?" 4 

St. Paul often addresses the most graceful words to the 
faithful, 5 especially when he wishes to win something from 
them, 6 or to make some reproof acceptable to them. 7 In 
this last case, when he is compelled to reprove and to blame, 
his reproaches are as affectionate as they are touching. 
" Brethren," he writes to the Galatians, 8 " I beseech you : 
you have not injured me at all. You know how, through 
infirmity of my flesh, I preached the Gospel to you hereto 
fore ; and your temptation in my flesh you despised not, 
nor rejected : but received me as an angel of God, even as 
Christ Jesus. ... I bear you witness that, if it could be 
done, you would have plucked out your own eyes and 
would have given them to me. Am I then become your 
enemy, because I tell you the truth ? . . . My little children, 
of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in 

1 Phil. i. 23, 24. 2 Acts xx. 34; i Cor. iv. 12; 2 Thess. iii. 8. 

3 i Thess. ii. 7, 8. 4 2 Cor. ii. i. 

5 Rom. i. 8 ; i Cor. i. 5 ; i Thess. i. 3 ; iii. 6. 6 Philem. 7. 

7 Rain. xv. 14. 8 Gal. iv. 12-20. 



62 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

you, I would willingly be present with you now, and change 
my voice, because I am ashamed for you." He ends his 
admonitions by words of encouragement and hope : "I 
have confidence in you in the Lord : that you will not be of 
another mind than I am." 1 

If he is sometimes compelled by circumstances to adopt 
a severer tone (e.g., I Cor. v.), he explains himself later on, 
and protests that his action has been dictated solely by his 
affection for them. " For out of much affliction and 
anguish of heart, I wrote to you with many tears : not that 
you should be made sorrowful ; but that you should know 
the charity that I have more abundantly towards you/ 2 
And he returns to the subject further on, as if he feared 
that they would feel some ill-will towards him, and excuses 
himself once more : " For although I made you sorrowful 
by my epistle, I do not repent ; and if I did repent, seeing 
that the same epistle (although but for a time) did make 
you sorrowful : now I am glad : not because you were made 
sorrowful ; but because you were made sorrowful unto 
penance. . . . And if I have boasted anything to Titus of 
you, I have not been put to shame, but as we have spoken all 
things to you in truth, so also our boasting to him is found 
to be truth [gloriatio nostra . . . veritas facta esf]. ... I 
rejoice that in all things I have confidence in you." 3 

79. It is not only in St. Paul, it is in all the saints whose 
lives we know, and, above all, in those who were called in 
a special manner to exercise the ministry of direction, that 
we remark this same spirit of gentleness, whole-hearted 
devotion, supernatural affection, and fatherly tenderness. 
Thus was it with St. Philip Neri, St. Francis of Sales, 
St. Vincent of Paul, St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Blessed 
Cure d Ars, etc. They, too, followed the maxim of the 
Gospel in all things ; they, too, took every possible pains 
to impress on souls the great principles of renunciation, 
abnegation, and death unto self ; but they knew well how 
to temper, after our Lord s example, the apparent bitter- 

1 Gal: v. 10. 2 2 Cor. ii. 4. 3 2 Cor. vii. 8-16. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 63 

ness of these precepts by the sweet and loving way in which 
they presented them. Since a wise direction must tend 
almost constantly to teach souls the practice of self- 
sacrifice, and to lead them to die to self in order to live to 
God Jam non sibi vivant, sed ei, qui pro ipsis mortuus est 
(2 Cor. v. 15) it is clear that the severity of the principles 
needs to be sweetened by the gentleness of the manner of 
administering them ; for we shall find that kindness and 
persuasiveness are much more apt to lead souls to sacrifice 
and to detachment than harsh rebukes and admonitions. 

80. " Let them find in you/ says St. Vincent Ferrier, " a 
father full of compassion for his children, who is grieved 
when they sin, or are suffering from some grievous sickness, 
or are fallen into a deep pit, and who does his very best to 
rescue them from all these dangers. Or, rather, have the 
heart of a mother, who caresses her children, rejoices at their 
progress, and at the glories of paradise which she anticipates 
for them " (Of the Spiritual Life, Book II., chap. x.). 

This advice, it is true, is addressed to preachers, but the 
great wonder-worker adds immediately afterwards : " Act 
in the same way in confession ; whether you have gently to 
encourage cowardly souls, or whether to frighten those who 
are hardened in sin, show to all the bowels of a tender 
charity, in order that the sinner may feel that this charity 
ever inspires your words. For this reason, if you have any 
reprimand to make, see that you always say something kind 
and affectionate first." 

81. The following story from the life of St. Vincent of 
Paul gives us at once an example and a eulogium of this 
beautiful virtue of gentleness. Having been informed 
that one of his missionaries treated his people with some 
harshness, St. Vincent wrote to him to exhort him to be 
more gentle, but " without showing the slightest want of 
consideration for his person, or telling him that he had 
received information of his defect." He began by giving 
him news of the missions and of the good that they were 
doing. Then, speaking more particularly of the labours of 



64 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

one of his priests and the marvellous successes that he 
achieved, the saint went on : " They attribute this happy 
success to the care that he takes to win over these poor 
people by gentleness and kindness ; and this has made me 
resolve to recommend more than ever to our Society to 
practise these virtues in still greater perfection. If God has 
blessed our first missions, it has been observed that this was 
owing to our having acted with kindness, humility, and sin 
cerity towards all classes ; and if He has made any use of the 
most wretched among us in the conversion of various 
heretics, these converts have acknowledged that it was due 
to the patience and cordiality which he displayed. Even the 
galley-slaves among whom I lived were not to be won in 
any other fashion, and when I chanced to speak severely I 
spoilt everything. But, on the other hand, when I praised 
their resignation and compassionated their sufferings ; 
when I told them how happy they were to have their purga 
tory in this world ; when I kissed their chains, sympathized 
with their sorrows, and commiserated them on their afflic 
tions, it was then that they listened to me, that they gave 
glory to God, and allowed themselves to be converted. I 
beg you, sir, to help me to thank God for this, and to ask 
Him to deign to cause all missionaries to treat their neigh 
bour kindly, humbly, and charitably, both in public and 
private, even the sinful and the callous, without ever using 
invectives or reproaches or harsh remarks about anyone. 
I do not doubt, sir, that you on your part try to avoid this 
way of treating souls, which rather tends to embitter and 
repel than to attract them. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the 
eternal sweetness of men and angels, and it is by this same 
virtue that we ought to try to go to Him, while leading 
others there also." 

82. The disciples of St. Alphonsus Liguori asked him one 
day what he considered the most important rule for the 
direction of souls. " I have no doubt whatever as to that," 
he replied : " the true characteristic of direction, and that 
which is most in conformity to the spirit of God and of the 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 65 

Gospel, is gentleness. Did not God show His mercy to 
Adam when he fell ? and was it not our Lord Who said, 
Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart ? Did 
He not bear patiently with the defects of His Apostles, not 
excepting even Judas ?" And the Saint added : " Besides, 
consider for yourselves what good the Jansenists have 
done in France by representing God as a tyrant." 

Gentleness, in fact, was the distinctive feature of St. 
Alphonsus direction through his whole life. He believed 
that souls are better established by gentleness than severity, 
just as they are drawn more surely to God by making them 
love rather than fear Him. He would say : " Conversions 
based on fear alone are not lasting, and where love has 
failed terror would never win the day." " When some 
horrid monster covered with scales rises up before you," 
he used to say to his companions, " and you are terror- 
stricken, like the young Tobias, then hand him over to me, 
that from his gall I may make an offering to Our Lord 
Jesus Christ." 

And the secret on which he counted in order to win the 
sinner was, again, only gentleness. He received him 
kindly, with a truly paternal welcome, as that one dear 
sheep for whose sake the Shepherd must leave the other 
ninety-and-nine. He was moved at his misery, showed the 
most touching compassion for him, and without one hard 
word or wounding remark he made it easy for him to un 
burden his soul, softening by his discreet questions the 
bitterness of his avowals. 

83. But, you will say, if we act with such great kindness 
and gentleness, is there not a risk of encouraging the 
egotism of certain souls who are greedy to attract all the 
solicitude and to absorb all the attention of their spiritual 
father ? Is it not, on the contrary, necessary to maintain 
a certain reserve ? 

No doubt ; but this necessary reserve does not exclude 
either kindness or interest. Let us only ensure that these 
souls always feel that we are animated by those supernatural 

VOL. i. 5 



66 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

and high motives which ought to guide us, that they see 
clearly that it is the love of God alone which inspires us, 
and that our feelings of paternal affection and devotion are 
joined with a perfect personal detachment. In this way, 
we shall not have to be afraid of those exaggerations, those 
too natural sentiments of tenderness, which would spoil the 
fruits of our direction, and, on the other hand, those whom 
we direct will always preserve a true respect for us, their 
filial confidence will never degenerate into unbecoming 
familiarity. 

Yes, we must avoid all softness and exaggerated tender 
ness, but we must also show great kindness and affability, 
which will put them completely at their ease. Listen to 
the reproaches made by the Venerable Father Libermann 
to a director of a seminary : " I think that you really neglect 
your penitents a little too much on account of your business. 
You do not let them see you as much as they sometimes 
need, and when they come outside the appointed quarter 
of an hour, if you are just then at work, it must often 
happen that you get rid of them quickly and without giving 
them the consolations they desire ; and this sometimes even 
with a certain roughness, because your mind is occupied, 
and you want to finish what you have in hand. . . . 
Never have the appearance of a man in a hurry ; only when 
we see that everything is settled we send them away in 
peace. Be always very gentle, but without ever flattering 
them or giving them sensible marks of affection " (Letter 
dated February 24, 1838). 



2. Direction ought to be Firm. 

84. The kindness of the director must not degenerate 
into weakness ; a director who was wanting in firmness 
would succeed hardly better than one who lacked gentle 
ness. Souls cannot, as a matter of fact, make any progress, 
except on the condition that they struggle incessantly 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 67 

against nature. They do not always resign themselves to 
do this ; they seek for pretexts or excuses, and are happy if 
they can get our approval for their acts of resistance or of 
cowardice. It is hard to contradict them ; it costs us 
something to be always demanding sacrifices and adminis 
tering reproofs, but yet we find that the human will, recoil 
ing before the necessary efforts, refusing to accomplish acts 
of self-sacrifice which seem too painful, really needs to be 
forced onwards towards the goal with vigour and sometimes 
even with severity. In these cases the fear of being re 
proached produces the effects which encouragement failed 
to accomplish. If the director who chides them gives them 
every proof in other ways of his paternal devotion ; if it 
is evident that he is not yielding to impatience or vexation ; 
if, as we showed in the case of St. Paul, he tempers the 
bitterness of his reproofs by subsequent kindness, his direc 
tion cannot fail to bring forth good fruit. But it is 
pleasanter and more attractive to be conciliatory, and that 
is why we easily persuade ourselves that it is also wiser ; 
that we shall in this way avoid driving away the weak and 
quenching the still smoking flax. Unhappily, when we act 
thus, it is grace that we are quenching ; it is the Holy Spirit 
that we are driving away. We get a reputation for kind 
ness and gentleness to which we cling in too human a way, 
and thus we do not forward the true interests of souls. 

85. Even when a person troubles himself about trifles 
and gives way to vain scruples, we must not think that it 
is only necessary to reassure him, and to overcome all his 
fears and remorse. Side by side with these groundless 
agonies which are caused by his imagination, and which 
the devil augments, there is room for the warnings of the 
Holy Ghost. For the scrupulous, far from being blameless, 
generally have failings which need to be vigorously combated. 
It would be very deleterious to them were we not to teach 
them to distinguish between the warnings of grace and 
the foolish fears of their perverted judgment, urging them 
to listen to the former as much as they despise the latter. 

52 



68 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

A prudent and zealous guide will seize the opportunity 
given him by such scruples to teach the soul to know itself. 
He will show it that if it is thrown into a state of dis 
couragement by recognizing the existence of some defect, 
this shows that it is still under the dominion of self-love. 
It is galled to find itself more wretched than it had thought, 
and so it yields to vexation, and lacks courage to continue 
the struggle. It ought, on the contrary, to accept thank 
fully these glimmerings which God vouchsafes to it, in order 
to reveal the abyss of misery within. They are as yet but 
feeble glimmerings, for God does not show us our heart in 
its full ugliness all at once. He reveals our true nature to 
us by degrees, increasing His light in proportion as we profit 
by it. Happy is he who finds a guide who desires to en 
courage this illuminating action of grace a guide who does 
not fear to humiliate his penitent, and who takes care at the 
same time to support him in the war to the death which he 
has to wage against his corrupted nature. 



3. How Direction must be altogether Supernatural. 

86. Kind and firm such, then, must be the character 
of our direction. Fortiter et suaviter. It is thus that the 
eternal Wisdom proceeds, and this union of strength and 
sweetness is, as it were, the seal of the Divine operation, 
the sign of a zeal inspired by the Holy Ghost. Direction 
will not fail to have this double quality if the spiritual 
father forgets himself in his relations with his ghostly chil 
dren, and has no other aim than the glory of God and the 
sanctification of souls. It is the mission of the angel- 
guardian to reveal the Divine will to the soul that he 
protects, and he is in this way a perfect model for all those 
who have the duty of enlightening and guiding their 
brethren. With what delicacy, what self -forget fulness 
does] this zealous and prudent messenger fulfil his mission ! 
He in no wise changes the nature of the inspiration that he 
has to communicate ; he does not blend his own will with the 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 69 

Divine will ; he effaces himself, and directs the attention of 
his charge, not to himself, but to his Divine Master ; he 
seems to approach that soul with no other motive than that 
of showing him by his own example how the creature should 
annihilate himself in the presence of God. 

The human messengers to whom God gives the charge of 
making known His Divine will, ought to imitate the dis 
interestedness of the angel-guardian. If they are too self- 
confident, rely too much upon their own lights, and remain 
too much attached to their own will, they impose their 
private opinions upon the souls committed to them, and 
thus substitute their own action for the Divine action, their 
judgment for the inspirations of the Holy Ghost. They 
thus put themselves in God s place, and usurp His rights, 
and this cannot but be detrimental to the souls both of the 
directed and the director. 

87. The director has indeed a beautiful mission, and if 
only we were fully persuaded of this, who would regret the 
time consecrated to enlightening souls and encouraging 
their progress in the way of Divine love ? Is not each soul 
a temple where God the Holy Ghost makes His habitation ? 
And can we take too much pains on the decoration and em 
bellishment of these temples of God ? Does not He derive 
more glory from these spiritual temples than from the 
material buildings consecrated to His worship ? In the 
eyes of the angels and saints he does much for the Divine 
honour who helps one soul to advance in faith and charity. 
During all eternity this sanctified soul will render to the 
Holy Trinity an ever more worthy homage, and the glory 
of God will thus be eternally augmented. If these thoughts 
are always before the priest s eyes, they will prove a power 
ful incentive to his zeal. The confessor should say, when 
each new penitent presents himself : " This soul is sent to 
me by God that I may do him some good, and he must not 
leave me without taking away with him some spiritual 
fruit." We should thus guard against routine, and acquit 
ourselves more worthily of our sublime ministry. 



70 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

88. When we said that direction must be paternal, we 
did not mean that the director should trouble himself 
about all his penitent s concerns. There are some people 
who can do nothing by themselves, and who would like 
their director to make up their minds for them in all their 
business, even in temporal affairs ; but such a course would 
lead to great abuses. When a matter of this kind has to be 
decided, it is the person whose duty it is to make the 
decision who will receive grace and light from God, and not 
the director. He should simply direct that is to say, dis 
tinguish the reasons for acting prevent the penitent from 
yielding to purely human motives and neglecting to look at 
the matter from a Christian point of view ; above all, he 
must hinder him from making decisions which would be 
hurtful to his spiritual interests. This is his part, and he 
must confine himself to it, under peril of losing his authority, 
or even sometimes of abusing it to the detriment of his own 
conscience. 

4. Direction ought to be Practical. 

89. The first abuse to be pointed out under this head is 
that after the confession the confessor too often limits 
himself to a vague exhortation made in a kind of formal 
and monotonous manner, so that the penitent thinks, 
" When my confessor gives me advice, he speaks as if he 
was preaching." It is with good reason that preachers 
are recommended to cultivate a natural delivery ; he 
should aim, as Pascal says, at being, not an orator, but a 
man, and he will in this way get people to share his con 
victions more effectually. But this precept is of even 
greater importance in the confessional ; here he should 
cultivate a simple and natural delivery, speaking, not 
preaching, like a man, not a rhetorician. 

90. It is also necessary to suit our counsels to 
these whom we address. Even when we have some 
common theme, we must vary its application according to 
the needs of each one ; there is so much diversity in souls. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 71 

The method that we have already described of ascertain 
ing how the penitent has carried out the advice previously 
given him, the questions that we may put during our 
exhortation as to whether he feels any special difficulty, 
or, on the other hand, some good inspirations, if he has not 
acted under certain circumstances in such and such a way, 
and so on ; this must necessarily render our direction more 
natural and more suited to the individual needs. 

This method will be still more efficacious if, instead of 
always changing the subject-matter of our exhortation, 
we take care to lay stress, several times running, on some 
specially important and practical subject. This subject, 
which may be, for instance, some fundamental virtue, some 
exercise of piety, or some salutary devotion, may be pre 
sented successively under different aspects. We should 
show on diverse occasions the various motives which urge 
us to apply ourselves to the virtue or devotion in question, 
and point out, one after the other, the different devices 
which may help us to exercise it, and make its practice one 
of our daily habits. Thus, for instance, at the beginning of 
a new year we may insist on the good employment of time 
during Lent, on the practice of penance and mortification ; 
during the month of Mary, on devotion to our Lady ; 
during October, on the method and art of prayer ; during 
November, on the thought of the four last things, and the 
need of working for eternity, etc. 

There are many remarks to be made, many counsels to 
be given on each of these points. We may also give as a 
penance certain chapters of the Imitation, to be read atten 
tively, which will oblige the penitent to dwell again on the 
same considerations, and help to emphasize the director s 
advice. A passing recommendation is soon forgotten, and 
he who allows his penitents to dissipate their efforts and 
flit from practice to practice, without tarrying at any one 
of them, will obtain but little fruit ; while by insisting on 
certain truths in the way we have described, and inducing 
them to undertake the work of their sanctification in an 



72 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

orderly sequence, and to apply themselves with perse 
verance to the most important points of the spiritual life, 
we shall procure much better results, and shall compel 
them, so to speak, to contract habits of solid virtue. 

91. It is clear that we must know a person thoroughly 
before we can render him any real service, and this know 
ledge is not attained all at once. There are people, how 
ever, whom we see but seldom, or even for the first time, 
who immediately, by the way in which they make their con 
fession, by the deep and enlightened faith of which they 
give proof, show that they are capable of being trained in 
perfection. We must take the more care not to neglect 
them, as we have so few opportunities of doing them good. 
A zealous director, from the very qualities which he remarks 
in them, takes occasion to urge them to give themselves up 
more generously to the service of God ; He congratulates 
them on their good dispositions, but shows them that since 
they have been more favoured by Divine grace, so it is 
their duty not to tarry on such a good course, but to 
endeavour with all their power to lead a life in strict con 
formity to the precepts of the Gospel. 

5. Duties of Persons under Direction towards their Spiritual 

Father. 

92. If spiritual direction does not always produce the 
fruits that one might hope, the fault is often less that of 
the confessor than of the penitents. 1 What, then, are the 
dispositions necessary for those under direction ? 

1 " It would be unjust," says M. Chaumont, " to attribute to the 
director the languid and feeble state for which the penitent is alone 
responsible. . . . We know that Jesus Himself, Who did so much 
good to the Samaritan woman and to so many other foreigners, could 
do nothing for His own countrymen, as the Gospel tells us. ... 
Besides the art of spiritual direction, which is less rare nowadays 
than it was, there is another art, less striking, no doubt, but never 
theless of great importance, and that is the art of submitting to 
direction." 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 73 

(1) A great spirit of faith. If they knew the gift of God, 
and Who it is that speaks to them by the mouth of the 
priest Si scires donum Dei, et quis est qui loquitur tecum 
they would always listen with respect and docility to their 
director s words, and their fervent prayers would draw 
down on the representative, the interpreter of God, more 
abundant lights for the direction of their souls. 

(2) The spirit of humility, which prevents them from 
dreading as a great misfortune, rebuffs, reproaches, or marks 
of indifference. 

(3) The spirit of simplicity, which gives the penitent 
straightforwardness and great openness of heart. The 
more they become like children, the more will the confessor 
feel he is their father ; their confidence will increase his 
solicitude and devotion. 

(4) The spirit of abnegation, thanks to which we desire 
enlightenment rather than consolation, firm and prudent 
decisions more than tender words. Let those, then, who 
complain that they do not meet with direction such as they 
desire, turn to their own hearts. The confessor will be 
rebuked at the supreme tribunal, if he has carried out the 
work of God negligently, if he has not acted the good 
Samaritan, and poured into the wounds of the poor stricken 
man the wine which cleanses and purifies with the oil that 
soothes his pain. But how many penitents will have to 
answer for the want of faith, humility, simplicity, and 
obedience which they have shown in their relations with 
their director ! 



SECTION II. SPECIAL RULES FOR THE DIRECTION OF 
SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE. 

93. In treating of this question, we shall follow the same 
procedure as in the former case, especially as the counsels 
given for the direction of souls of the first degree are also 



74 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

to the point here. The dwellers in the second mansion, 
although somewhat more advanced, are still in a state of 
spiritual infancy, and they still need to be kept in leading- 
strings and to be led on by easy steps. 

94. They need to be further enlightened. 

The task of initiating in Christian ideas beginners who 
are still absorbed in material cares, began in the first man 
sion, and is not yet completed. The faith of these souls 
needs revivifying. We must, from time to time, insist on 
the motives already indicated in order to inspire them with 
the desire for a more serious life, and this especially because 
they are now more sensitive to grace and more docile to 
the exhortations given them. They will easily recognize 
the fact that they are too much attached to worldly things, 
and too careless with regard to spiritual blessings. We 
should profit by their acknowledgment to show them 
forcibly how prejudicial is this error, and thus induce them 
to think more of the interests of their souls, and to pray 
urgently to God for those spiritual graces for which they 
appear to have so little eagerness. 

These inhabitants of the second mansion have less 
repugnance for pious books, although they are as yet 
incapable of any very serious reading. The Gospels, the 
Lives of the Saints, some short passages of the Imitation, 
may be fruitfully recommended to them. But it is mental 
prayer, above all, that will communicate more abundant 
light to their souls. And, in fact, it will be well to recom 
mend to them at this point the practice of discursive 
meditation, and if we can get them to be faithful to it, we 
shall do them a great deal of good. 

We shall speak of meditation in a special chapter. 

95. The Training of these Souls to a more Fundamentally 
Christian Life. We will place under the same heads as 
before the various means of sanctification which should 
be resorted to : Prayer, the sanctification of common 
actions, mortification, Sacraments. 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 75 

I. Prayer. 

96. On this point, again, we have little to say that is 
new. These souls are not as yet so thoroughly exercised in 
prayer that we can afford to neglect to recommend to them 
frequently, as to beginners, the duty of regularity and 
attention (see above, p. 32). 

We must also uphold them in times of trial. In fact, as 
has been observed with much truth, while sufferings and 
trials are powerful incentives to prayer in the case of fervent 
souls, those who are less advanced feel a great repugnance 
to devotional exercises in the hour of trial, and too often 
begin to neglect them. If they understood their true 
interests, they would never be more faithful than at such 
moments ; more energy is no doubt needed at these times, 
but by that very fact more merit is acquired ; they would 
show greater fidelity to God, and derive much spiritual 
benefit from their prayers and pious exercises. 1 

When under such circumstances they confess that they 
have fallen back into relaxation, dissipation of mind, or 
sin, the first counsel to give them is this : " It was impos 
sible that it should be otherwise, since you grew weary of 
prayer. You will continue in this trying condition of dis 
taste for goodness, of weary struggles, and even of sin, 
until by generous efforts you have overcome your repug 
nance for prayer. Before all things, pray and pray again, 
in spite of difficulty, in spite of the little attraction that 
you feel for it, for there is no other way of emerging from 
this troublesome state of soul and of finding peace of heart 
once more." 

97. But even apart from such circumstance we may 

1 "It must be observed," says St. Ignatius (Spiritual Exercises), 
" that if it is easy in times of consolation to give a full hour to con 
templation, in times of desolation, it is, on the contrary, very difficult 
to finish it. For this reason the beginner ought always to continue 
a little beyond the hour, in order to counterbalance the desolation 
and to conquer temptations. He will thus accustom himself not 
only to resist the enemy, but even to overthrow him." 



76 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

insistently urge supererogatory prayers upon these Chris 
tians. We shall benefit them greatly, for instance, by 
getting them to assist at daily Mass. And at such times 
as the beginning of Lent, of the month of Mary, or that of 
the Rosary, we may suggest to them that there is no better 
means of sanctifying these seasons of grace than by assisting 
every day at the Holy Sacrifice. So with the chaplet, we 
can urge them to join the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. 
If they wish to obtain some grace, even a temporal one, we 
may recommend them to make a novena, during which 
they will hear Mass daily, or make a visit to the church, or 
recite the chaplet every evening. In this way we induce 
them to undertake works of piety from which they had 
perhaps shrunk as being above their strength, and which 
they are astonished to find that they can perform. Then 
it becomes easier to lead them on little by little to a high 
state of fidelity. Devotion to the holy souls in purgatory, 
besides its intrinsic merits and the blessings it draws down, 
has also the advantage of making these Christians pray 
more fervently. 

We think it may be useful to repeat here what we have 
already said : as to the duty of the director to see that his 
penitent prays with recollection, and struggles against 
routine and inattention. " Always begin your prayer, 
whether mental or vocal," says St. Francis of Sales, " by 
putting yourself in the presence of God ; never fail in this 
rule, and you will soon see how useful it is to you." 

2. The Sanctification of Common Actions. 

98. In treating this question as regards beginners, we 
said that, in order to accustom them to live a supernatural 
life, it was useful to make them give an account of the 
manner in which, at the beginning of each day, they offered 
their works and their sufferings to God. The Christians 
of whom we are here speaking are already initiated to 
some degree in the supernatural life, and we will point 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 77 

out two means by which they may be trained in it more 
completely that is to say, recollection and a definite rule 
of life. 

99. Recollection. They will admit that one of the greatest 
obstacles to the service of God which they meet with is 
either the thoughtlessness of their age (if they are still 
young), or, if older, the various preoccupations, business 
worries, and anxieties of every kind which tend to make 
them lose sight of the care of their souls. Having won this 
admission from them, and having forcibly demonstrated 
the sad effects of this dissipation, and their consequent loss 
with regard to eternity, we must urgently advise them to 
recollect themselves from time to time, and recommend 
themselves to God, asking His help, and offering Him what 
they are doing. The offering of the hour may then be sug 
gested to them with advantage ; it consists in making a 
short prayer or ejaculation whenever we hear the clock 
strike the hour, or, again, renewing the offering of our 
works and good resolutions. 

100. Rule of Life. Another very efficacious means of pre 
serving souls from that dissipation which is so natural to 
the human heart is to get them to follow a simple and easy 
rule of life. We repeat simple and easy, since it is evident 
that we must avoid minute and detailed prescriptions, 
which would be suitable only for persons more advanced in 
piety ; and that we can only trace it on the broad lines of 
the Christian life. This rule will direct them as to (i) when 
and how to pray, and what religious practices to adopt ; 
(2) what virtues they should specially cultivate ; and (3) it 
should contain some counsels as to their ordinary occupa 
tions and the duties of their state of life. 

As a specimen, we give in the Appendix a rule of life for 
children who already show a real disposition to piety, and 
who have become members of a religious confraternity. 
These children may have already attained to the second 
mansion. Their devotional exercises consist of their 
morning and evening prayers, spiritual reading, particular 



78 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

examen, receiving the Sacraments, and devotion to our 
Blessed Lady. This is all laid down. The duties of their 
state of life are studying and class-work, and they are told 
how to study. Finally, the virtues that they must specially 
cultivate are obedience, which sums up their duty towards 
their superiors ; patience and gentleness, which regulate 
their relations with their equals, and Christian self-denial, 
which will teach them to gain the mastery over themselves, 
and to avoid becoming the slaves of their evil tendencies. 
A word is added as to holy purity, on account of the im 
portance of this quickly sullied virtue. 

If it is easy to get them to accept a rule of life, it is more 
difficult to keep them to it. And so it will be well often to 
speak on this point, both in the public instructions to the 
confraternity, and privately in the confessional. At one 
time we may choose one of the points of the rule, explain it, 
and dwell on its importance ; and at another we may inquire 
into the manner in which it has been observed. 



3. Renunciation. 

10 1. Here, again, we have to continue the work already 
begun in the first mansion. The task has now become less 
difficult, and we can insist more strongly on this all- 
important point. 

Struggle against Sin Examination of Conscience. The 
first thing to be done is to fight against faults and diminish 
the number of venial sins. When an otherwise sufficiently 
enlightened Christian, firm and sincere of faith, and prac 
tising habits of piety, remains, as it were, fixed in a state of 
half-tepidity, and does not make that progress which we 
should expect from his way of living, the reason of his 
torpor is easy to guess ; it is the sins, though they be only 
venial sins, to which he is addicted. 

The daily examination of conscience is a very efficacious 
remedy for this evil ; those who never examine themselves, 
or only do so from time to t me, may commit a number of 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 79 

faults without paying any attention to them, and will 
scarcely arrive at any real knowledge of themselves. 

It is, however, quite true that when a person seriously 
gives himself to God s service, and knows how to keep 
recollected, the grace which is poured into his mind en 
lightens him silently, and shows him many faults which 
had before escaped his notice, even without his searching 
for them. Still, the soul s industry in examining the 
conscience, far from injuring this action of grace, favours 
it particularly. 

Examination of conscience is, indeed, indispensable, 
especially in the case described above, in which a man of 
good-will, who has a sincere desire to advance, remains in a 
sort of spiritual torpor which is solely due to his numerous 
sins. It is also very useful for people who are good but not 
very recollected, who wish to serve God, but through heed- 
lessness and the worry of temporal business think too little 
about their souls. Examination of conscience, especially 
if we can get them to practise it at midday as well as in the 
evening, insensibly makes them more watchful, draws 
sincere acts of contrition from their hearts, and causes them 
to renew their good resolutions ; and all this tends to prevent 
the fatal results of sin, helps to make them more attentive to 
duty and more zealous for the sanctification of their lives. 

102. But we must confess that the usefulness of this 
practice is only equalled by the difficulty of getting begin 
ners to take it up. It costs so much to our poor human 
nature to have to stop to consider its own miseries ; and, 
then, this examination into the different actions of the day 
is a really fatiguing task. We shall only obtain regularity 
in this exercise by constantly urging its importance. If 
people do not see the great utility of a practice which is so 
far from agreeable, they are hardly likely to pursue it with 
ardour or perseverance. 

Even pagan philosophers recommended their disciples 
to learn to know themselves. TvwOi o-eavrov (Know thy 
self) was one of the wise maxims, of antiquity. To enter 



80 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

into oneself is to open the shutters of one s soul that the 
light may pass in freely ; if they remain hermetically sealed, 
the rooms will be in darkness even when there is the most 
brilliant sunshine outside. Thus, even amid fervent sur 
roundings the souls of those who never examine themselves 
would remain plunged in darkness. How is it possible to 
correct our faults or cure our interior ailments if we are not 
conscious of them ? how shall we know them with any 
exactness save by serious examination ? 

103. But these examinations of conscience ought to be 
made in the presence of God and with sincere humility. 
" Do not be astonished," the prudent director will say, 
" to find such a number of faults and evil tendencies in your 
hearts. The more you progress in virtue, the more God will 
give you His light, in order that you may know better and 
better the utter corruption of your nature ; but, at the same 
time, do not give way to vexation at finding how bad you 
are ; if your revolted pride does not reject His light, God 
will make you understand that He loves you in spite of your 
weaknesses, as the mother loves her feeble, sickly child. 
He will make you comprehend the power of grace, which 
can so easily bring good out of evil and change all your 
failings into resplendent virtues. Therefore, never make 
your examination of conscience without first thinking of the 
love of God, and never end it without an act of confidence 
in His wisdom, His power, and His mercy." 

104. In order to ensure more fidelity in this practice, we 
should make our penitents account to us with regard to it, 
and recommend them to accuse themselves when they have 
neglected it. We should also take care to lay down a good 
method of examination, which will make it easier. With 
out a method the mind wanders, distractions come, and, 
after useless and tiring efforts, this salutary exercise is 
given up. 

Here is a method that may be recommended. 
Begin by asking God for grace to know your sins and to 
detest them. Then turn to Mary, without whom you 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 81 

should do nothing, saying to her very simply : " Dear 
Mother, get me grace to see my faults clearly, and to 
humble myself for them." 

Then review the different acts of the day in the following 
order : 

How have I acted 

(1) In my duties towards God (a) my prayers ; (b) my 
other devotional exercises ? 

(2) Towards my neighbour (a) meekness ; (b) charity ; 
(c) obedience ; (d) truth ? 

(3) Towards myself (a) patience ; (b) humility ; (c) tem 
perance ; (d) purity ; (e) as to the duties of my state of life, 
sanctification of my work ? 

End by asking God s pardon with all your heart, and 
promising to do better for the future. 

105. The Ruling Passion. Among the faults that we 
have to combat, the besetting or ruling passion comes first. 
St. Ignatius, in his Spiritual Exercises (on Discernment of 
Spirits) says : " The demon imitates a captain who wants 
to take a place where he hopes to find a rich booty. He 
pitches his camp, he considers his forces and the circum 
stances of the place, and he attacks it on its weak side. 
So it is with the enemy of the human race. He is ever 
prowling round us, examining from every point each of 
our virtues, theological, cardinal, and moral, and when he 
has discovered the spot which is weakest and least pro 
vided with the armour of salvation, it is there that he makes 
his attack, and that he tries to capture us. 

This weak side, this vulnerable spot, which our enemy 
knows so well, is our ruling passion. In the Christians 
with whom we are now dealing this is easy to distinguish, 
since it has been but little fought against. Later on, 
especially when the sensible attractions of grace have 
greater hold upon the soul, and calm its evil tendencies, 
the detection of this ruling passion becomes more difficult. 

1 06. This, we think, is the best way to proceed in order 
to discover it : First, we must make the penitent pray 

VOL. i. 6 



82 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

earnestly for the help of God s Holy Spirit, for it is thus 
that we must always begin. Without this Divine Spirit, 
without the help of His grace, man is but darkness and error ; 
and then, we cannot insist too strongly on doing nothing, 
beginning nothing, without prayer. 

After this, the director will recommend his penitent to 
examine, with great care and repeatedly, as tp the most 
frequent subject of his thoughts : what he generally thinks 
about the first thing on waking in the morning ; what is 
the object of his day-dreams when he is alone ; what are 
the most usual causes of his feelings of joy and vexation, 
or of his grief when he is sad ; what is the intention that 
he most often proposes to himself ; what the motive which 
makes him act, and which habitually inspires his conduct ; 
what the source of his faults, the reason of his sins, especi 
ally when it is not some one accidental fault, but a whole 
series, a state of resistance to grace, or omission of his 
devotional exercises, which has lasted some days ; what 
is the origin of it all, and what is the reason which has pre 
vented him from returning to God. No doubt there will be 
accidental causes of all these different feelings and actions, 
and sometimes mere passing ideas will have given rise to 
such and such particular circumstances ; but still, it will all 
often be the consequence of an interior disposition of mind, 
of an habitual tendency which is, in fact, the ruling passion. 

We may also detect the ruling passion from the attacks of 
the tempter, who often knows us better than we know our 
selves, and who, as St. Ignatius says in the passage already 
quoted, is skilful in directing his onslaughts against that side 
of us which he knows to be weakest. We may also recog 
nize it by the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, Who, in 
moments of fervour, when His working within us is most 
sensibly felt, makes us understand by the sacrifices that 
He asks of us, by the interior drawings that He makes us 
feel, by the resolutions that He suggests to us, which is 
the road that wih 1 lead us to perfection, and which is that 
vice against which we must fight most resolutely. We 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 83 

recognize it, again, by the difficulty felt in combating it ; 
it is our darling sin which it costs us most to sacrifice. 

107. The ruling passion once discovered, we must apply 
ourselves to its destruction. When the defenders of a town 
know the weak spot at which the enemy will direct his 
attacks and try to make a breach, is it not here that they 
concentrate their efforts ? Is it not necessary before 
everything to guard against this danger ? By thus fortify 
ing ourselves, we do more than make ourselves safe : we 
ensure the victory ; for when the ruling passion is conquered 
the demon is vanquished. His future attacks are hardly to 
be feared ; they will turn to the advantage of the Christian 
soul rather than to its loss. When Goliath was overthrown, 
the Philistines were put to flight ; when Holophernes was 
killed, the Assyrian troops experienced defeat after defeat, 
and the Hebrews were delivered from their enemies for 
a long period. 

However, we must not flatter ourselves that we have 
gained this decisive victory so easily. So long as we have 
not made any serious progress in piety, so long as we have 
not entered and even dwelt for some time in the third 
mansion that is to say, in the way of true devotion and 
even in the fourth, which is the state of fervour, the ruling 
passion will remain very much alive ; but from this moment, 
from the point of the spiritual life which we have now 
reached, we must begin this combat, and pursue it hence 
forth with courage and perseverance. This will be the 
surest means of arriving at perfection. 

Prayer is, of course, the first remedy against the ruling 
passion. To offer to God with this intention rosaries, 
novenas, Communions, acts of mortification these are 
excellent means which deserve to be encouraged, or, if 
necessary, suggested. 

A second means, also very efficacious, and recommended 
by all the masters of the spiritual life, is the particular 
examen. To the general examination of conscience, of 
which we have already spoken, we should join a special 

62 



84 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

examination as to the ruling passion. St. Ignatius, in his 
Book of Spiritual Exercises, advises the use of a special note 
book, each page of which is divided into as many lines as 
there are days in the week. We should mark on each line 
a number of points corresponding to the number of times 
into which we have fallen into this particular fault. The 
Saint wishes that the length of the lines should diminish as 
the days go on, to remind us that the number of our falls 
should also diminish daily. An excellent plan is to add to 
the particular examen a sanction that is to say, a penance 
which we impose on ourselves for each fault committed. 
This penance may be a prayer, a half -hour s silence, some 
mortification fixed on beforehand, almsgiving, etc. Thus 
we may expiate our sins, and oblige ourselves to be more 
circumspect for the future. We all know the story of the 
nursing sister who had charge of an old general who was in 
the habit of blaspheming without noticing it, and how she 
managed to cure him by making him pay five shillings for 
the poor every time he swore. Fear is for us the beginning 
of wisdom, and since we behave too often like children, we 
ought to treat ourselves like children, and conquer ourselves 
by the fear of punishments. 

108. Humility and Mortification. Whether we know our 
ruling passion or not, there are two faults which it is neces 
sary to combat early in the spiritual life, for in them we 
find the great obstacles which oppose the progress of the 
soul : these are pride and the excessive love of comfort. 

Pride is the cause of all sins. Initium omnis peccati 
superbia. All know that it brings in its train every sort of 
wrong-doing vanity, ambition, touchiness, discords, in 
subordination, etc. We will explain later on how to make 
war on these faults ; it is, indeed, only after the soul has 
entered generously on the path of perfection that it can gain 
the mastery over self-love. It is important, however, to 
unmask this enemy at once, and we should clearly point out 
to the penitent what harm its pride does, and occasions for 
so doing will not certainly fail us. To begin with, most 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 85 

of its sorrows and vexations come from this cause ; and 
who can reckon the sins that are due to it, the trials 
badly borne, the good opportunities neglected, the multi 
plied resistances to grace which spring from this stupid 
feeling of self-esteem ? 

We must therefore point out this evil while we deplore 
it, encourage souls to resist it, and, above all, urge them 
most earnestly to beg God to make them more humble. 
We must tell them that if they cannot overcome it alone, 
they will certainly be able to do so with the assistance of 
God s grace. " Earnestly pray for humility," we should 
say ; " for when you have gained this beautiful virtue, the 
others will come of themselves, and you will advance 
rapidly along the way of true devotion." 

109. But there is a form of self-love which frequently 
shows itself at this stage of the spiritual life, and which 
needs to be energetically repressed, and that is human 
respect. As a rule, imperfect souls pay little attention to 
this point, and yet human respect often paralyses their 
good dispositions ; they will not pray with that devotion of 
which they are capable, nor receive the Sacraments with 
that frequency to which they feel themselves drawn, 
because they are afraid of what people will say. And if we 
do not examine them on this point, they will seldom reveal 
this weakness to us ; a prudent director, however, will 
know how to make them acknowledge it, and will exhort 
them most fervently to fight against this fatal tendency. 

There is only one means of getting cured of fear : it is to 
brave the phantom, which always appears more formidable 
at a distance than when seen at close quarters. When 
the bird has once found out that the scarecrow is only a 
helpless figure, an empty show, then it approaches it boldly, 
and is not stopped any more by foolish terrors. We must 
make all whose good -will is paralysed by human respect 
understand that they are letting themselves be frightened 
by mere phantoms, and insist on their taking energetic steps 
and acting courageously. If, for instance, they are afraid 



86 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

of appearing too devout, we should oblige them to make 
open profession of their religious sentiments, to show by 
their acts or words that they have an esteem for piety, 
and desire to apply themselves to God worthily. If the 
fear of foolish ridicule keeps them away from the Holy 
Table, or at least hinders them from approaching it as often 
as they would otherwise do in response to the secret attrac 
tions of Divine grace, we should give them as a penance to 
go one day to Holy Communion in the most public manner. 
This little act is not above their strength, and it is usually 
but the first step which is difficult ; when once they have got 
over this barrier, the way of the spiritual life opens widely 
before them, and is easy to their feet. 

no. We must point out another occasion where there is 
also need to insist with special emphasis on this virtue of 
humility. 

We find among our penitents eccentric, obstinate, and 
touchy characters, who, like fiery, restive horses, champ 
against the bit, and are a continual source of anxiety to 
those who drive them. The director may gain great profit 
in the other world from having to direct these poor people ; 
they are a real source of merit. Great patience and sym 
pathy, joined with a gentle firmness, are necessary. Only 
the Almighty can cure these twisted minds ; the sole 
remedy that we can apply, difficult as it is, is humility. 
This will keep their outbursts in check, and spare them 
many a folly. We should therefore continually impress 
on them the value of this virtue, and constantly insist on 
blind obedience ; for without humility and without obedi 
ence there is everything to fear for them, and nothing to 
hope. 

in. As to the love of ease and pleasure, we have said 
above (No. 44) that it must be resisted from the outset of 
the spiritual life. It is easy to show the need of this to 
souls of good-will ; they comprehend the necessity of 
penance and of sacrifice. The saying of the Imitation is 
justly renowned : Tantum pro fides, quantum tibi ipsi vim 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 87 

intuleris The more thou doest violence to thyself, the 
more progress shalt thou make (Book I., chap. xxv.). Is 
it not, indeed, by this very spirit of renunciation that we 
recognize the true disciples of the Gospel, the real children 
of Jesus Christ ? Yes, indeed, he alone is a true Christian 
who does not fear to suffer a little for the love of a God Who 
has suffered so much for him ; who wishes to expiate his 
sins by penance ; who, knowing how to conquer himself, 
and not to yield to all his whims and caprices, overcomes 
his faults, and in the end triumphs over them almost with 
out a struggle. On the other hand, he who always does 
his own will ends by becoming the most unhappy and the 
most vicious of men. 

There is one period especially when these counsels will be 
well received, and that is Lent. An excellent plan with the 
young is to give them at the beginning of this holy season 
a paper containing a list of mortifications which they may 
practise, with a few words explaining the reasons for doing 
penance. In the Appendix we give a list of penances for 
the use of young boys, and another for girls. 

Outside Lent, we may, from time to time, choose one or 
other of these mortifications, and tell them to practise it 
for a week or a fortnight, and afterwards inquire as to 
how they have observed it. 

112. Another excellent form of detachment in fact, an 
obligatory one is almsgiving. He who gives an alms 
derives from it double profit : he acquits himself of the great 
duty of fraternal charity which is so dear to the heart of 
God, and he practices the important virtue of self-sacrifice. 
Thus, the alms profits him who gives more than him who 
receives, according to the saying of Jesus : Beatius est 
magis dare quam accipere (Acts xx. 35). 

It is often a delicate matter to have to remind others of 
this obligation ; people do not like to admit to themselves 
that they are hard-hearted towards their neighbours and 
too much attached to their wealth, and, a fortiori, they do 
not like some one else to suspect them of this failing. There 



88 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

is another fault no less common, but which is admitted with 
better grace, and that is discharging these duties of charity 
from a purely natural feeling of compassion only, without 
raising the intention to God. Whether it regards alms 
giving or those numerous acts of kindness or charity 
towards our neighbour, for which we find an occasion at 
every step, this absence of a supernatural motive causes a 
really deplorable loss of merit. If we draw attention to 
this point, and teach our penitents to supernaturalize these 
acts of charity for instance, to see Jesus Christ under the 
rags of a poor man we render them a great service. In 
this way, too, we may be able to reproach their selfish 
ness without seeming to do so, and recall the duty of 
fraternal charity to those who only live for themselves, 
and have no idea of making the least sacrifice for their 
neighbour. 

113. Passive Mortification Patience. We have just 
described the active part that the soul ought to take in the 
practice of mortification. God, however, does not leave it 
to itself in this necessary work, but He provides it with 
trials and crosses, which, if bravely borne, will cause it to 
make great progress on this difficult path. If Divine 
Providence did not thus take part in the work, human 
cowardice is so great that the expiation of our past sins 
would always remain incomplete ; and thus we should never 
by ourselves reach that degree of detachment which is 
necessary if we would make still further progress and receive 
yet more abundant graces. 

These trials are those vexations of every sort that we meet 
with here below from the elements : bodily calamities, 
sickness, trials arising from temperament or the rigour of 
the seasons ; from the circumstances of our lives : loss of pro 
perty, poverty, with its privations, desires thwarted, plans 
that miscarry, and hopes deceived ; from our fellow-men : 
opposition, misunderstandings, reproaches, whether just 
or undeserved, criticisms, etc. ; and, finally, the sorrows of 
our own hearts : bereavements, separations, and, in one word, 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 89 

all that troop of griefs and vexations which accompanies 
man from the cradle to the tomb. 

Blessed are they who know the secret of turning all 
these trials to their spiritual advantage, and drawing 
profit from their tribulations ! These, after all, are not too 
heavy, and are quickly over, and patient souls win thereby 
the eternal weight of sublime and incomparable glory. 
Momentaneum et leve tribulationis nostrce, supra modum in 
sublimitate ceternum gloricz pondus operatur in nobis (2 Cor. 
iv. 17). 

114. But perfect patience is not acquired in a day, and the 
beginners with whom we are dealing need to be led towards 
it very gently and tenderly, for it is most important not to 
overpress them. Thus, when they make their complaints 
and open their griefs (and we must, if necessary, provoke 
these confidences) the director should begin by following 
that they indeed have reason to complain, and he should 
be careful to agree as to what is well grounded in their 
lamentation, and then, having sympathized with them to 
some extent, he should go on : " All this is true, and it is 
very painful to have to put up with such things ; humanly 
speaking, you are perfectly right, but since we are Chris 
tians, let us look at it from a Christian point of view. 
God has permitted this vexatious annoyance. He did not 
choose to spare you this trial, though He might have done 
so had He willed. Nevertheless, He loves you ; He is a kind 
Father who desires your good with all His heart; He 
therefore saw in this some advantage and profit for your 
soul." And then, if need be, the director will enlarge upon 
the doctrine of the utility of suffering, a truth of capital 
importance which is yet so difficult of acceptance. Beati 
qui lugent (Blessed are they that mourn). The reply 
will nearly always be an act of assent, accompanied by a 
new complaint : " What you say is very true, but the trial 
is not less hard for that." " Yes," he will insist, " it is 
indeed hard, but God never tries us above our strength. 
Do not give way to discouragement ; make an effort, and 



90 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

God will help you to submit. If you do not feel the courage 
to embrace your cross, ask Him to make you stronger, to 
give you the resolution which you need. If you had prayed 
more fervently, and, above all, if you had returned to the 
charge without letting yourself be discouraged, besieging 
the Master with entreaties until He had bestowed on 
you that Christian energy which is lacking, you would now 
be more resigned, and would say, like our Lord : My God, 
may Thy will be done, and not my own. Come, pluck up 
your courage, and, above all, pray ! And if a too bitter 
complaint, or even a murmur, should yet escape you some 
times, do not think that all is lost : it is not to be expected 
that you will arrive all at once at the point of perfect 
resignation ; rather on these occasions humble yourself, 
pray still more, and force yourself yet again to make acts 
of patience and submission." 

This is the sort of exhortation that will constantly have 
to be repeated by the director, for trials play a great part 
in our lives, and there is, perhaps, no more useful service 
that he can render to the poor souls under his care than thus 
teaching them to bear their crosses well. 

But we shall hardly persuade them to be more resigned 
unless we really enter into their sorrows, and make them see 
that we understand the bitterness of their cup unless, in 
fact, we show that we have the truly sympathizing heart 
of a tender father. It will be more easy to convince them 
of their duty if they see that we are trying to teach them 
to bear their sufferings well for their own sakes, and out of 
the interest and affection that we bear them. Then they 
will learn to understand that this great science of suffering 
is indispensable to their happiness even in this world, that 
by a lack of patience they would only make themselves un 
happy that they cannot, in fact, flatter themselves that 
they love God unless they are willing to suffer somewhat 
for Him. 

Happy is the director who knows how to make his 
penitents earnestly desire this virtue of resignation, who 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 91 

brings them to hold it in great esteem and to pray for it 
fervently. 

115. How Souls are to be encouraged. We have treated 
this question of renunciation at some length because of its 
importance, and also of its difficulty. In whatever form 
we impress it on them, whether in that of active morti 
fication or resignation, we shall not induce beginners to 
embrace it without some trouble. Especially will it be 
necessary to encourage and support them. Let us hear 
what the wise Father Lallemant says of these beginners : 
" Encourage them greatly in the changes and chances of 
life. Blame them also sometimes discreetly when they 
have been in the wrong, especially when the fault is a some 
what serious one ; but never, however, let them go away 
without encouragement. This is a course which we must 
adopt generally with regard to souls who are still weak 
i.e., always to moderate the bitterness of a reprimand by 
the sweetness of encouragement. For we must give these 
souls every possible consolation." 1 

Thus, when we are able to see that some effort has been 
made, that the penitent has really done violence to his 
nature in some point, or has had the grace to accept some 
suffering, however light it may be, with Christian resigna 
tion, we ought to show him our satisfaction, urge him to 
thank God, even make him sometimes recite a hymn of 
thanksgiving, such as the Magnificat. In this way we 
make him more sanguine, and by increasing his confidence 
we give a new ardour to his good desires. 

116. Souls struggling with Mortal Sin. We have already 
remarked, among those with whom we are now dealing, 
an astounding mixture of pious sentiments and deplorable 
frailties, but, what is even more surprising, and yet by no 

1 Doctrine Spirit, 2 Principe, sect, ii., chap. vi. It is rather 
for souls who are already devout, yet who have made but little 
progress in piety, that these words of Father Lallemant are meant. 
So it is clear that they must be applied a fortiori to the souls of 
whom we are speaking here. Cf. St. Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises. 



92 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

means rare, is the discovery of really good dispositions 
mingled with grave sins in the same person. Faith is 
strong and lively ; the enlightened soul knows its religion 
perfectly, is attached to its duties, and sometimes gives 
itself to prayer with real fervour, and yet, in spite of all this, 
it falls into shameful sins. The sinner rises again from 
his falls, returns once more to the service of God, gains real 
merit, and yet falls again. Such grave want of constancy 
disconcerts the directors ; they ask themselves anxiously 
what remedies they can apply to such a state of things. It 
is certain that in these poor souls faith is more developed 
than charity, and that only a more perfect detachment 
from self can cure them of their wrong-doings. However, 
not to judge them too severely, we should take into con 
sideration the violence of passion and the suddenness of the 
fall, which in certain cases almost prevents deliberation 
and greatly extenuates the guilt. 

Their responsibility is even less, and is sometimes alto 
gether non-existent, when the state of their nerves is such 
as to destroy the balance of the soul s faculties, and to give 
a deplorable predominance to the sensitive imagination, 
thus diminishing to an often unsuspected degree the due 
action of the reason. 

Such poor nervous people, while recognizing that they 
have acted in certain circumstances under the influence of 
an extreme excitement of the senses, believe that they 
remained fully conscious of their acts and had the entire 
mastery over their will ; whereas, as a matter of fact, they 
had lost control over their actions to a very great extent. 
In case of doubt, theologians say, the degree of consent 
must be appreciated ex communiter contingentibus that 
is, when there is a doubt as to whether there was full 
deliberation in certain actions we must be guided in our 
judgment by the habitual dispositions of the penitent. 

However this may be, it is more than ever important, 
when dealing with such souls, to bring forward all those 
means of grace which we have already pointed out : per- 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 93 

severance in prayer., invoking our Blessed Lady with filial 
confidence, energetic practice of mortification, constant and 
regular use of the Sacraments. But it is prayer, above all, 
and meditation on the four last things which will give courage 
to wage this combat against the most stubborn passions 
with valour and constancy. St. Alphonsus says that many 
people fast, recite the rosary and the office of the Blessed 
Virgin, and yet remain in sin ; but that it is impossible that 
one who is faithful to the practice of mental prayer should 
continue to live in enmity with God (Praxis Confess. ; 
see below, No. 125). 

4. The Use of the Sacraments. 

117. " Without Me," our Lord has said, " you can do 
nothing." The various means of grace that we have already 
enumerated prayer, the sanctification of our ordinary daily 
actions, and mortification are indeed excellent and of 
great efficacy ; but how much of their power they lose if we 
are not careful to supplement them with the frequent use 
of the Sacraments ! 

The Sacraments are the instruments of sanctification 
which God in His infinite wisdom has chosen as the most 
appropriate to the needs of His creatures. It would be 
madness to pretend to know better than God, and to prefer 
human devices to these divinely chosen means of grace. The 
Holy Eucharist, especially, must be our chief strength 
the Eucharist which contains the Principle and Source of 
all perfection, and the Author of all sanctity. Those who 
wish to live by Jesus must even feed on Jesus. By His 
frequent visits to the interior of the soul, Jesus will in 
sensibly communicate to them His Divine inspirations, 
forming their thoughts and judgments after the pattern of 
His own ; He will communicate to them His own senti 
ments, which will move them to love what He loves, to 
desire what He desires, and to reject what He rejects. 
They will become more and more like unto Him. 



94 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

118. In order that it may produce these happy fruits, 
Holy Communion should be received frequently ; this is 
the desire of the Lord Himself : Caro mea vere est cibus 
(My flesh is food indeed). It should be, then, according 
to our Lord s own plan, not a rare State banquet, but the 
common and ordinary nourishment of our souls. The 
director must employ all his zeal and skill to induce his 
penitents to receive our Lord often, especially with those 
who are good and well disposed, but who desire to com 
municate at long intervals only. He should use all his arts 
of persuasion, congratulating them on what they have 
already accomplished, while he presses them to do yet 
more. " Do you regret," he should say to them, " the 
Communions that you have made ? Is it not true, on the 
contrary, that you feel pleased and happy when you have 
been to the Holy Table, and that if you do not communi 
cate more often it is solely because you shrink from the 
trouble ? It costs you something, and you do not want to 
make this little effort. Ah ! if you could understand how 
great a good you deprive yourself of ; if you knew with what 
tender love Jesus would come to you ; how anxious He is 
to visit you and to bring you His gifts ; what pressing in 
vitations He sends you ! In the hour of death and through 
all eternity will you not congratulate yourself on having 
often received the kiss of Jesus, of having been frequently to 
drink at the Source of all grace and of all merit ?" 

Parochi partes erunt fideles crebro adhortari ut . . . hoc 
sacramento nutriendcB animce curam non abjiciant, says the 
Catechism of the Council of Trent. Yes, it is the duty of 
pastors often to remind their flocks of our Lord s ardent 
desire to give Himself to His children ; they must tell out 
the Church s mind on this point, and dissipate the prejudices 
which make frequent and even weekly Communion to be 
regarded, too often, as a practice of perfection which is only 
fitted for certain elect souls ; while, as a matter of fact, 
weekly Communion, at least, should be the normal practice 
of the faithful. Was it not so in the times of the Apostles 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 95 

yes, and even up to the beginning of the Middle Ages ? 
Then weekly Communion, and for many centuries and in 
many countries even more frequent Communion, was not 
the exception, but the common practice of ordinary Chris 
tians. Would the Church have been able to conquer the 
world at that epoch of her formation and growth, in that 
age of struggles and dangers (which is so like our own), if 
her children, deprived as they were of all external succour 
and exposed to all the perils of contact with the pagan 
world, had not had the help of frequent Communion 
to sustain them in the conflict ? The Council of Trent de 
sired to see the faithful communicate sacramentally every 
time they heard Mass, and it is of obligation to hear Mass 
every Sunday. This desire is easily understood if we 
reflect that many souls can only overcome their temptations 
and remain in a state of grace by receiving the Blessed 
Sacrament frequently. 

119. Those who only communicate on great festivals 
should be recommended to do so also on less important 
feasts on those of the Blessed Virgin, for instance. When 
they have been prevented on the festival itself, we should 
advise them to come as soon as possible afterwards, in 
order not to deprive themselves of so great a blessing by 
putting off their Communion until the next feast comes 
round. Others may be advised to communicate every 
month, every fortnight, or every week. A bereavement, 
the loss of a relation or friend, will be an opportunity for 
getting them to come more often, since the greatest service 
we can render the departed is to pray, and to go to Holy 
Communion for them. Guilds and confraternities, such 
as that of the Holy Rosary and the Third Orders, and 
many other similar organizations, form excellent means 
for inducing the faithful to approach the Sacraments more 
frequently. 

Again, we cannot but approve the zeal of those priests 
who get the young to go to Holy Communion on six suc 
cessive Sundays in honour of St. Aloysius, in order to 



96 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

accustom them to the more frequent use of this Blessed 
Sacrament. The Popes have encouraged this devotion 
by granting to each of these six Communions a plenary 
indulgence, provided that they are made on consecutive 
Sundays. We may seize the opportunity of the approach 
of an examination, or the debut into the world, or, again, 
of some great grace that they wish to obtain, to recommend 
this excellent practice. Those who have thus been to Holy 
Communion for six successive Sundays will be more easily in 
duced to form a regular habit of communicating frequently. 

Again, we may note another method which has often 
been found successful in introducing frequent Communion 
among those who did not practise it, and in cases where 
old-established custom, human respect, or ignorant preju 
dice seem to make the innovation specially difficult. We 
may take advantage of some favourable season (such as 
the month of Mary, or that of the Sacred Heart, or, again, 
the month of the Holy Souls) to propose to those whom 
we wish to influence that, in order to celebrate better 
these sacred seasons, which are so dear to all true 
Christians, they should agree among themselves to take 
turns to go to Holy Communion for each other s intentions, 
so that every day there should be one or even several 
Communions for the intentions of the community, parish, 
school, college, or confraternity, whatever it may be. 

Again, we may advise our penitents to keep their own 
birthdays, and those of their parents or their pastor, as 
well as the anniversaries of their baptism and first Com 
munion, by going to Holy Communion, not to mention 
the first Friday of each month, according to the holy 
practice said to have been taught by our Divine Lord to 
Blessed Margaret Mary. 

120. However, it is not sufficient to induce the faithful 
to communicate frequently : it is no less important to 
teach them to communicate well. For this purpose 
nothing is better or more to be recommended than the 
custom of St. Aloysius, which consists, as we all know, 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 97 

in dividing the interval between our Communions into 
two parts, and consecrating the first days to thanksgiving 
and the others to preparation. The thought that we have 
received, or are about to receive, our Lord, must prove a 
powerful incentive to lead a truly Christian life ; while, 
on the other hand, Communions thus prepared for will 
surely produce the best results. 

Without adding anything further, the various practices 
that we have already enumerated prayer, the offering 
of our actions, fidelity in Christian self-denial can all be 
exercised with this intention, and thus all may become acts 
of preparation for Holy Communion, or of thanksgiving 
after it. Thus the Eucharist will be the centre towards 
which all the rest will converge, the reception of this 
Divine Sacrament will produce far greater fruits of sancti- 
fication, while all these good works will in their turn derive 
from the Holy Communion a greater efficacy and a higher 
merit. 

Souls such as we are now dealing with should, according 
to the rules commonly laid down by theologians, be allowed 
to communicate weekly, and those among them who show 
a good-will and prepare themselves as we have just 
described for the reception of this Divine Sacrament may, 
by the same rules, be permitted, and even encouraged, 
to communicate during the week as well ; for they are 
living as good Christians should live, they are devoted 
to works of piety, and hardly, if ever, give way to venial 
sins with full deliberation. 



SECTION III. SUMMARY OF THE METHOD OF DIRECTION 

BEST ADAPTED FOR THE SOULS OF THIS SECOND 

DEGREE. 

121. The method of direction for these souls is not 
such a complicated matter as it might seem at first sight. 
With the exception of certain details, necessary under 

VOL. i. 7 



98 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

special circumstances or on extraordinary occasions, the 
method of direction can be easily summed up. A few 
well-chosen questions in the confessional, after the penitent 
has finished his self-accusation, will quickly enable us to 
give the most beneficial advice. We will now point out 
the sort of questions that will help us to understand the 
dispositions of the penitent, and thus to remind him of 
the steps which he must take in order to make progress 
in the spiritual life. 

(1) Prayer. (a) Have you tried to recollect yourself 
before beginning to pray ? (b) Have you prayed with 
fervour to the Blessed Virgin this week ? (c) Have you 
been faithful to the practice of mental prayer ? 

(2) Sanctification of Ordinary Actions. In this past week 
have you often thought of God during the day, offering 
Him your works and occupations, or recommending yourself 
to Him by some ejaculatory prayer ? 

(3) Mortification : the Struggle against Failings. 
(a) How have you made your examination of conscience, 
and how have you striven to correct your faults, especially 
your besetting sin ? Have you thought seriously of this 
and made real efforts, and have you any victories to record ? 
Have your faults been due to weakness, or have you sinned 
deliberately and of set purpose ? (b) Patience. Have 
you accepted with resignation and out of love for God 
all your trials, great and small ? (c) Mortification. Have 
you made any sacrifices ? 

(4) The Sacraments. Have you made a serious and 
fervent preparation for your Communions this last week or 
fortnight ? 

Let us remark, while on the subject of the Sacraments, 
that it will be good to question the faithful from time to 
tune as to their preparation for confession, and, above all, 
to excite them to contrition. 

122. The very fact of putting such questions frequently 
will be sufficient to inspire the penitent with good resolu 
tions. If his answers are satisfactory we must congratulate 



DIRECTION OF SOULS OF THE SECOND DEGREE 99 

him and encourage him to persevere ; if otherwise, we 
must exhort him earnestly to set to work. " What ! 
you say that you love God, and yet will do nothing for 
Him ? This time you have not made the smallest effort, 
the most insignificant act of love. If you were to be 
judged by the actions of this last week or fortnight, what 
would the Supreme Judge find in you that deserved reward ? 
Here, then, is a whole week, or two weeks, which are almost 
wasted for eternity. Come, be brave, show a little more 
generosity ; be faithful in these small things, and God will 
give you a great reward." 

We have already pointed out how useful such a method 
is, and how inadequate it would be were we always to 
confine ourselves to giving general advice, and exhortations 
which are more or less commonplace, and often of little 
practical value. We must enter into the little details of life 
if we wish to be true directors and to do some good to souls. 

Will it always be possible to put all the above questions ? 
Undoubtedly not. Time would fail most priests, and, 
besides, it is often not enough to direct, we have sometimes 
to push on indolent souls with urgent exhortations. A 
certain variety is necessary, and it will not be without 
advantage if we call the attention of our penitent to the 
different points in succession. 



CHAPTER III 

ON MENTAL PRAYER 

SECTION I. ON MENTAL PRAYER IN GENERAL. 
i. Its Importance. 

123. " IF you would suffer the trials and sorrows of this 
life patiently, be a man of prayer. If you would gain 
the courage and strength necessary to overcome the 

72 



ioo THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

assaults of the enemy, be a man of prayer. If you would 
mortify your self-will, with all its inclinations, be a man of 
prayer. If you would know the devices of Satan and would 
foil his deceits, be a man of prayer. If you would live 
in joy and walk sweetly in the paths of penance, be a man 
of prayer. If you would drive from your soul the teasing 
flies of vain thoughts and anxieties, be a man of prayer. 
If you would nourish your soul with the marrow of devotion, 
and would have it always filled with good thoughts and 
good desires, be a man of prayer. If you would strengthen 
and confirm your courage in the ways of God, be a man of 
prayer. It is in prayer that we receive the union and the 
grace of the Holy Spirit, Who teaches all things. Further, 
if you would mount to the heights of contemplation, and 
enjoy the sweet embraces of the Bridegroom, exercise 
yourself in prayer. . . . We have heard and seen, and we 
see every day, a great number of simple people who 
have obtained all these graces, and greater ones yet, by 
means of mental prayer." 

This magnificent, almost lyrical, eulogy of prayer is by 
St. Bonaventura. St. Peter of Alcantara, in his Treatise 
on Mental Prayer and, Meditation, quotes it at length, 
and speaks in a similar way. Indeed, all the Saints have 
used the same language. " Give me a man of prayer," 
said St. Vincent of Paul, " and he will be fit for every 
thing : he will be able to say with the holy Apostle, I can 
do all things through Him that strengtheneth me/ 

124. Every one knows how St. Teresa has extolled mental 
prayer. " To those who do not serve God, but live in sin, 
mental prayer is so profitable, and even so necessary ! . . . 
Let him never cease from prayer who has once begun it, 
be his life ever so wicked ; for prayer is the way to amend 
it, and without prayer such amendment will be much more 
difficult. . . . And as to him who has not begun to pray, 
I implore him, by the love of our Lord, not to deprive him 
self of so great a good. 

"Herein there is nothing to be afraid of, but every- 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 101 

thing to hope for. Granting that such a one does not 
advance, nor make an effort to become perfect, so as to 
merit the joys and consolations which the perfect receive 
from God, yet he will little by little attain to a knowledge 
of the road which leads to heaven. And if he perseveres, 
I hope, in the mercy of God, for him, seeing that no one 
ever took Him for his friend that was not amply rewarded ; 
for mental prayer is nothing else, in my opinion, but being 
on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in 
secret with Him Who we know loves us." 

This could not be better put, and this most exact idea of 
mental prayer is sufficient in itself to show its immense 
advantages. " If it is so helpful," says St. Augustine, " to 
live with good men, and if their company is of such great 
value to us, what shall we say of those who live habitually 
with God ?" 

St. Teresa continues : " Now, true love and lasting friend 
ship require certain dispositions : those of our Lord, we 
know, are absolutely perfect ours vicious, sensual, and 
thankless ; and you cannot, therefore, bring yourselves to 
love Him as He loves you, because you have not the dis 
position to do so ; and if you do not love Him, yet, seeing 
how much it concerns you to have His friendship, and how 
great is His love for you, rise above that pain you feel at 
being much with Him Who is so different from you. 

" I cannot tell, Lord, why the whole world does not 
labour to draw near to Thee in this particular friendship. 
The wicked, who do not resemble Thee, ought to do so, 
in order that Thou mayest make them good, and for that 
purpose should permit Thee to remain with them at least 
for two hours daily, even though they may not remain 
with Thee, but, as I used to do, with a thousand distractions 
and with worldly thoughts. In return for this violence 
which they offer to themselves for the purpose of remaining 
in a company as good as Thine for at first they can do no 
more, and even afterwards at times Thou, O Lord, de- 
fendest them against the assaults of evil spirits, whose 



102 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

power Thou restrainest, and even lessenest daily, giving to 
them the victory over these their enemies. So it is, O Life 
of all lives, Thou slayest none that put their trust in Thee, 
and seek Thy friendship ; yea, rather, Thou sustainest their 
bodily life in greater vigour, and makes t their soul to live." 1 

125. St. Alphonsus de Liguori is no less positive, no 
less enthusiastic, we might almost say. " A prudent con 
fessor, when he sees that a soul has a horror of mortal sin 
and some desire for a Christian life, should above all else 
train it in the practice of mental prayer, beginning with 
meditation on the great truths ; for this exercise appears 
to be very necessary if souls are to persevere in the grace 
of God . . . and there is no practice that the devil tries to 
hinder like that of mental prayer. . . . There is no doubt 
that if the earth is full of sinners and hell of lost souls, it is 
because the eternal truths have not been sufficiently 
meditated on. ... If we were to ask the reprobate, Why 
are you in hell ? most of them would reply, Because we 
have not thought enough of hell. In mental prayer it is 
God Who speaks to us : Ducam earn in solitudinem, et 
loquar ad cor ejus I will lead her into the wilderness, and 
I will speak to her heart (Osee ii. 14). Now, God speaks 
better than any preacher. It is by the practice of mental 
prayer that all the Saints have been sanctified. Experience 
proves that those who are faithful to prayer are preserved 
from mortal sin, and if by accident they should fall, they 
rise again promptly. Mental prayer and mortal sin are 
mutually incompatible. Many Christians recite the Rosary 
or the Office of our Lady, fast, and yet continue to live in 
sin ; while he who remains faithful to mental prayer will 
not only abandon sin, but he will detach his heart from 
all creatures in order that he may love God alone. Prayer 
is the furnace in which souls are inflamed by the Divine 
love " (Praxis, 122 and 217). 

" I do not know any better means of salvation," says 

1 Her Life, written by herself, translated by David Lewis, 
chap, viii., pp. 58, 59. 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 103 

St. John Baptist de Rossi, " than mental prayer. He who 
goes not to prayer goes after temptation. The day on 
which we have not made our meditation, let us beware of 
falling into sin." 

The learned Suarez esteemed prayer so highly that he 
would have preferred to lose all his learning rather than one 
half hour s converse with God. 1 

126. It is unnecessary to multiply quotations. All true 
servants of God, without exception, profess the same esteem 
for the exercise of mental prayer, and we cannot sum up 
the teaching of the Saints better than by saying that prayer 
gives us true wisdom, and with it every sort of good : 
Venerunt mihi omnia bona pariter cum ilia, et innumerabilis 
honestas per manus illius (Sap. vii. n). By it all vices 
are corrected, by it all virtues are acquired. 

On the other hand, what can we hope from those who 
have never reflected, who have never given themselves up 
to serious consideration ? They are, unhappily, numerous 
in our days, and we may repeat with too much truth the 
words of the prophet Jeremy : Desolatione desolata est terra, 
qui nemo est qui recogitet corde. 

This is what we must say and repeat. And if it is ob 
jected that it is possible to reflect without meditating, let 
us reply expressly : " No. The moment you pause to dwell 
upon some serious thought, that you reflect on some truth of 
our holy religion, drawing certain conclusions for your own 
guidance, you are meditating without knowing it. The 
meditation that we are proposing to you, and wishing to 
teach you, is merely this ; but it is at once the surest, easiest, 
and most fruitful way of making these reflections and 
drawing these practical conclusions. Unless you apply 
yourself to this real meditation, you will only have fugitive 
gleams of truth. The good thoughts which cross your mind 
will pass without leaving many traces behind ; your resolu 
tions will be without strength, and your life will not corre 
spond fully to your beliefs." 

1 St. Jure, Connaissance de J6sus Christ^ t. iii., chap, v. 



104 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Preachers and confessors cannot, therefore, insist too 
strongly on the importance of mental prayer. This path 
will, especially at first, be arid and difficult, and, in order 
to persevere in it, the mind must be thoroughly penetrated 
with its great advantages. " Otherwise," says Father 
Pius de Granada, " the human heart is so attached to itself, 
hard work is so repugnant to it, that it will never undertake 
so toilsome a task, unless it sees that it will derive some 
great profit from it " (Treatise on Prayer, Part in., Pro 
logue). 

127. So the director s first aim must be to impress on his 
penitents a great devotion for prayer, in order to induce 
them to practise this holy exercise ; and at the same time 
he must inspire them with an intense desire to acquire this 
habit, and a firm resolution never to abandon it. 

St. Teresa makes a great point of this firm resolve of never 
giving up prayer ; she regards it as being of sovereign im 
portance, and states her reasons at great length (Way of 
Perfection, chap, xxiii.). 

First, it is our duty to God. Indeed, if we do it for His 
sake, as we ought ; if we devote ourselves to this pious exer 
cise with the aim of giving Him glory, of rendering Him our 
homage, of learning to love and serve Him better, we ought 
not to do it by halves, or reserve to ourselves the right of 
discontinuing it when we may choose. To make this slight 
effort for God, with the intention of stopping as soon as it 
became a little burdensome, would indeed be to show an 
unbecoming ease in our conduct towards our Maker. 

Another reason is that when a soul is firmly decided to 
persevere in the practice of mental prayer " it becomes 
more difficult for the devil to tempt it. He stands much in 
fear of constant souls ; he knows by experience the harm that 
they do him ; he knows that all his attempts to injure them 
only turn to their profit and to the profit of others, and 
that he will be worsted in the combat " (St. Teresa). 

Finally, we feel much more confident when we have said, 
" Whatever happens, I will never give way." The 1 instance 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 105 

of the conqueror who burnt his ships on landing upon his 
enemy s shores is classical ; an army firmly resolved to 
conquer or perish in the attempt is sure of victory. 



2. Definition of Mental Prayer Its Various Divisions. 

128. Prayer is an uplifting and an application of our 
minds and hearts to God, in order to pay Him our debts, 
lay our needs before Him, and so to become holier for His 
glory. 

This definition appears to us to be applicable to the 
various states of prayer, which differ so widely one from 
the other, and to suit the lower as well as the highest degrees 
of contemplation. There are, in fact, very many ways of 
practising this devotion, and the classification of the various 
states of this prayer is one of the most complicated ques 
tions of ascetic- theology. 

Father Rodriguez (On Prayer, chap, vi., sub fine) declares 
the common teaching of the Saints to be that each of the ways 
purgative, illuminative, and unitive corresponds to a 
special method of prayer. Suarez teaches the same no less 
expressly. 1 Nothing could be more logical. In fact, the 
relations of the soul with God and its form of prayer vary 
according to its interior state. The method of prayer for 
beginners is different from that suitable to the devout, and 
this is different, again, from that proper to the perfect. 

In the purgative way, the way of struggles and labours, 
where the soul is still almost exclusively engaged with 
earthly matters, altogether preoccupied with its temporal 
interests, and exposed to grave danger of falling into sin, 
and, on the other hand, is still a novice in spiritual things, 

1 Exercitium hoc sanctum (oratio mentalis] in omnibus locum habet, 
at non potest fsqualiter in omnibus inveniri, quia non omnes sunt ceque 
dispositi et affecti ; ergo juxta varios status orantium, ita etiam diversi 
esse debent orandi gradus et modi. RECTE IGITUR itLis TRIBUS 

STATIBUS HOMJNUM TRES H^E ORANDI VIM ACCOMMODANTUR (SuaiCZ, 

De Devotione, xi. 3), 



106 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

it is only by dint of reflections and considerations that it 
is enabled to free the heart and raise it towards God, and 
to bring the will to form energetic and holy resolutions. 
Meditation or discursive prayer is therefore proper to this 
stage. 

In the illuminative way, in which, according to the teach 
ing of theologians, the passions have not so much strength, 
the desire of advancing in virtue is much more lively 
and the love of God is just beginning to inflame the soul, 
the considerations will play a much less important part 
than the heart. We have then the stage of affective prayer, 
the prayer of ardent desires, earnest supplications, and 
fervent resolutions. 1 

Finally, in the unitive way the principal desire of the soul, 
as St. Thomas says, is less to grow in the love of God than 
to be united to Him and to enjoy Him. 2 St. Thomas, in 
one of his opuscula, according to Father Balthazar Alvarez, 
even blames those spiritual persons who pass their lives in 
seeking God without ever enjoying Him. 3 Besides, these 
souls, having received much light, are greatly impressed 
with the majesty and the goodness of God ; considerations 
tending to persuade them of their duties to Him could 
only be a burden to them ; they love Him with a tranquil 
but intense love, which the Divine Spirit Himself pours into 

1 Alexander of Hales with good reason applied to this prayer 
the definition of Hugh of St. Victor : Oratio est conversio in Deum 
PER PIUM ET HUMILEM AFFECTUM, fide, et spe, et charitdte subnixa 
(4 part., quaest. 88, memb. i, art. i). 

2 Ad hoc principaliter intendit ut Deo inhcsreat et eo fruatur, et hoc 
pertinet ad perfectos (Ad 3). Perfecti etiam in charitate proficiunt, 
sed non est ad hoc principalis eorum cura ; sed jam eorum studium 
circa hoc maxime versata ut Deo inhesreant (St. Thomas, 2, 2, q. 24, 
a. 9, c.). 

3 De contemplatione sive via unitiva optime intelligitur . . . quod 
Bernardus dixit ..." oratio est HOMINIS DEO ADH^RENTIS affectio, et 
familiar-is qucedam et pia allocutio, et STATIC illuminates mentis AD 
FRUENDUM QUAMDiu LICET." Qucs ultima verba maxime declarant 
statum animcB qua ad unionem ascendit, nam illuminata supponitur 
et IN DEO QUIESCENS ad fruendum illo (Suarez, De Devotione, xi. 7)^ 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 107 

their hearts, and they taste a deep and lively satisfaction 
in this love. The method of prayer of these perfect souls 
will thus be less vehement, at once more simple and more 
calm : it is ordinary contemplative prayer. 

But among the perfect there are those to whom God 
grants marvellous favours, which suppose an actual inter 
ference with the ordinary laws of Nature : these are true 
miracles, like the raptures and ecstasies which suspend the 
exercise of the sensible faculties ; or, again, God works 
purely spiritual phenomena in their souls without the inter 
mediary of the exterior senses, or even of the imagination, 
making them thus like the angels or disembodied spirits. 
Among such phenomena are intellectual visions : this con 
stitutes extraordinary contemplation. 1 

1 Cf. Suarez, De Oratione, chap. xiv. 

" Every one," says Fr. Lallemant, "must keep faithfully to the 
kind of prayer proper to that state of the spiritual life to which he 
belongs. There are three kinds. Meditation or discursive prayer 
is proper to beginners who are in the purgative way ; affective prayer 
to those who are making progress, and are in the illuminative way ; 
contemplation and the prayer of union to the perfect who are in 
the unitive way " (7 e Principe, chap. i.). 

Father Surin (Cat. Spir.) is not less explicit. " For whom is discur 
sive prayer ? For those who begin. For whom affective prayer ? For 
those who advance. For whom is contemplation ? For the perfect " 
(part i., chap. i.). " How many sorts of contemplation are there ?" 
he asks in the following chapter. " There are two principal kinds 
the ordinary and the extraordinary. What is ordinary contempla 
tion ? It is a simple repose of the soul in which it tastes and 
experiences Divine things, remaining in the presence of God without 
any difficulty, and considering heavenly things with affection. 
What is extraordinary contemplation ? It is that which, beyond and 
above this repose, is accompanied by extraordinary gifts and 
favours, such as visions, raptures, and ecstasies. 



io8 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

SECTION II. ON DISCURSIVE PRAYER. 

The kind of prayer proper to beginners is, as we said, 
the prayer of meditation. 

i. Definition of Discursive Prayer. 

129. " Discursive prayer," says Father Surin (Cat. Spir., 
part i., chap, ii.), "is that in which a man tries by various 
considerations, to understand the mysteries of the faith 
and instruct himself therein, while drawing resolutions and 
conclusions for the amendment of his life." " The prayer 
of meditation/ says the Ven. Fr. Libermann, "is a 
sensible application of the mind to a supernatural truth, 
in order to convince ourselves of it and to be brought to 
love it by the help of Divine grace." The considerations 
as the means, the resolutions as the end ; such are the char 
acteristics of this form of prayer. All authors are agreed as 
to this. All are equally agreed that for beginners a method 
is almost always necessary. Does not every art, in fact, 
need an apprenticeship ? It is only by the help of a clear, 
practical, and elementary method that masters can train 
their pupils. In this way they at first guide and accom 
pany them step by step. Later on the pupil, to whom the 
routine has now grown familiar, comes to act more spon 
taneously, and frees himself from the shackles of an over- 
rigid rule. 

This method, as taught by all the masters of the spiritual 
life, is the same. We may compare that given by St. Peter 
of Alcantara, that of Father Pius de Granada, that which St. 
Ignatius follows in the Spiritual Exercises, that which St. 
Francis of Sales teaches in the Introduction to the Devout Life, 
and the method taught at St. Sulpice, 1 and we shall see that, 
if some insist on certain points more than on others, if some 
details vary, the divergences are small and the basis identical. 

1 See the book of M. Letorneau, Cure of St. Sulpice, La Mtthode 
d oraison mentale du Seminaire de Saint-Sulpice. Paris, Lecoffre. 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 109 

2. Method of Discursive Prayer. 

130. (i) Preparation. All the authors begin with the 
preparation : Ante orationem prcepara animam tuam, et noli 
esse quasi homo qui tentat Deum Before prayer prepare 
thy soul ; and be not as a man that tempteth God (Ecclus. 
xviii. 23). The human mind is by no means drawn of itself 
towards spiritual things ; in most people, and especially 
beginners, the mind and heart are habitually filled with 
worldly thoughts, preoccupations, and ideas, so much so 
that these must be cast out before they can place themselves 
in dispositions of recollection and prayer. " Before we 
play an instrument," says St. Peter of Alcantara, " we take 
care to put it in tune." This preparation must be very 
necessary, since the Holy Spirit tells us that to neglect it 
is to tempt God that is to say, to expect Him to work a 
miracle. 

" The preparation," says St. Francis of Sales, " consists 
of two points to place ourselves in the presence of God, 
and to ask Him to give us the help of His light " (Devout 
Life, part ii., chap. ii.). The Saint then points out four 
methods of placing ourselves in God s presence. As his 
book is in everybody s hands, let us content ourselves with 
a summary of his teaching. The first method consists in 
picturing to ourselves the immensity of God, Who is 
present in every place. The second is to think that not only 
is God where we are, but that He is in us, in the depths of 
our souls. ... A third method is to picture the Son of God in 
His humanity regarding from on high all men on the earth, 
but specially Christians, and most particularly those who 
are actually engaged in prayer. The fourth consists in 
imagining that Jesus Christ is in the same place with us, 
as if we saw Him before us, much as we might picture the 
presence of some friend. 

It is good to make use of the imagination in order to place 
ourselves thus in the presence of God. Indeed, " the 
imagination, being pleasantly busied with a supernatural 



no THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

object, leaves us at peace during our prayer, and helps 
rather than hinders us ; while when we leave it unoccupied 
as a rule it gives us trouble " (Libermann, Ecrits, p. 127). 

The invocation comprises three parts. At the sight of 
God s Majesty man must abase himself before Him, and 
offer Him his homage. This is the act of adoration. 
Some methods, notably that of St. Sulpice, rightly supple 
ment it with acts of humility and contrition, by which we 
confess ourselves to be unworthy to appear before God, or 
to be permitted to remain in His presence, and ask His 
pardon for all the infidelities of our life. Having thus 
confessed our powerlessness to pay Him our homage and 
address Him as we ought, we implore the light of the Holy 
Ghost and the assistance of His grace. We then make a 
short invocation to the Blessed Virgin and to our Guardian 
Angel. 

So much for the preparation. Fr. Libermann tells us 
that this is a very important part of the prayer of medita 
tion. "If we do not carry out this first point well the 
whole prayer will suffer " (Ecrits Spirit, p. 124). Thus, if 
people complain that they cannot succeed in this holy 
exercise, we must especially urge them not to make these 
preparatory acts in a superficial or careless manner, but 
to apply themselves to it seriously and with their whole 
attention. 

131. The Body of the Prayer Exercise of theThree Faculties 
of the Soul. After this comes the body of the prayer, in 
which we arrive at the subject-matter. It is here specially 
that the three faculties of the soul are engaged. We recall 
this theory of St. Ignatius of set design, for we shall never 
properly understand the authors who followed him 
St. John of the Cross, for instance, and still more St. Teresa 
if we lose sight of this way of looking at meditation. 
St. Teresa, even in the highest forms of prayer, always 
bears in mind the part played by the three faculties of the 
soul, and her explanations become much clearer when taken 
in corij unction with this doctrine of St. Ignatius. 



ON MENTAL PRAYER in 

These three faculties of the soul are (i) the memory. 
St. Francis of Sales (chap, iv.), in attributing to the 
imagination the part which others assign to the memory, 
speaks, perhaps, with the greater exactitude at least, his 
language answers better to our conception of these two 
faculties. (2) The understanding or reason. (3) The will. 

As to this last faculty, it is important that we should 
never forget, in reading the works of ascetical or mystical 
writers, that they, like all other theologians, understand 
this term in its true and wider sense, as signifying the 
intellectual appetite or faculty by which we turn to the 
good when we have apprehended it by our reason. Since 
the seventeenth century the sense of the word has often 
been restricted and applied to the act of determination 
alone. The power of loving is now expressed exclusively 
by the word " heart," which is less exact, for this word 
nearly always* implies a sensible love, which, though it 
has its seat in the intellectual appetite, yet has its mani 
festation in the sensitive appetite. We shall use the 
term " will " in its theological sense. 

The memory, or, as we should prefer to say, the imagina 
tion, is exercised in placing before the mind s eye the 
point or mystery which is to form the subject of our prayer ; 
the understanding, in searching out and considering the 
motives which are the most capable of inflaming the will ; 
and, finally, the will, in producing affections such as praise, 
thanksgiving, desires, prayers, and resolutions. 

132. There is another way of describing the same 
method, which seems better adapted to the needs of the 
faithful and easier to remember. It is that of dividing 
the meditation into five points : preparation, or the 
presence of God ; consideration ; the personal application ; 
prayer ; and the resolution. 

(1) Preparation. We have dealt with this already. 

(2) Consideration. Once you have placed yourself in a 
state of recollection by means of the preparatory exercise, 
you must strive to conceive in your soul a fervent desire 



H2 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

for spiritual blessings. To this end try to get, first of all, 
a lively conviction of their importance, and so you will 
arrive at the second point of mental prayer i.e., the 
consideration, or what is properly known as meditation. 

How are you to make the consideration ? This is, in 
fact, the difficulty ; it is this which many devout souls 
consider to be above their capacity, and meditation 
appears an impossibility to them. 

For those who can use some good book the difficulty is 
greatly lessened. You take a volume of meditations, 
or some other pious work, such as the Imitation, the 
Devout Life, the Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, etc. 
You read a few sentences, then stop to think them over ; 
you read a little more, and then meditate again. 

But reading is not always possible, and, besides, there are 
certain subjects of special importance for which it is not so 
necessary, and, indeed, as we must often return to them, we 
should weary of reading the same pages over and over again. 

These subjects are, of course, the great truths of religion. 
In order to meditate on them without the help of a book, 
it is good to make use of the imagination to represent to 
ourselves the circumstances of the mystery or event which 
we are considering, and this is what St. Ignatius calls the 
composition of place. If, for example, we meditate on 
hell, we shall see with the eyes of the imagination those 
immense fires, and the souls of the reprobate enclosed, 
as it were, in bodies of fire ; we shall listen to their groans, 
their cries, their clamours, their blasphemies against our 
Lord, and so on and thus, with other truths, applying 
successively, as far as the subject permits, our five senses 
to the fact on which we are meditating. 

Certain writers Roothaan, for instance (Sur la maniere 
de Mediter) suggest the use of the famous Latin verse 
which sums up all these different circumstances as a means 
of recalling them to mind : 

Quis, quid, ubi, quibus auxiliis, cur, quomodo, quando. 
(Who, what, where, by what means, why, how, when.) 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 113 

The reader can take some suitable subject for meditation, 
and see how these different circumstances of subject, 
object, place, method, end, and time, help to suggest useful 
reflections. 1 

When the imagination has thus passed in review the 
different circumstances of the event or mystery which 
we are trying to examine, it remains for the understanding 
to draw the conclusions, and then to consider the motives 
best adapted to convince and persuade us. The conclusion 
to which we must always tend may be summed up thus : 
we must avoid evil and do good. Now, we may reduce 
the motives which urge us to accept this truth to these 
three : (i) It is simple justice. Not only common honesty, 
but, above all, the respect due to God and gratitude for 
all His benefits, make it our duty to do so. (2) Nothing is 
more advantageous for ourselves. It is to our interest 
both for this present life and for the future. (3) The under 
taking is easy : so many others succeed in it with the help 
of Divine grace. We shall readily see the various develop 
ments to which each of these motives can lead ; it is good 
to dwell on them and penetrate deeply into them. 

Thus is acquired that keen relish for spiritual things 
which is, as we have said, the aim of this second part of 
discursive prayer namely, the considerations. 

I 33- (3) The Personal Application. In order to desire 
them yet more ardently, we must consider how great is 
our need of them. This will bring us to the third part of 
our prayer i.e., the personal application. It is a sort of 
examination of conscience, in which we look our faults 
in the face, and consider the sins to which we are most 

1 Thus in the meditation on the Passion, the subject, quis, is the 
Son of God ; the object, quid, are His sufferings ; the place, where, 
is Calvary, near that Jerusalem which He had so greatly loved ; 
the methods of his enemies, quibus auxiliis, were hypocrisy and 
calumny ; the cause, cur, our own sins ; the mode, quomodo, the 
ignominious death reserved for felons ; the time, when, the Paschal 
season, when strangers and the inhabitants of all Palestine, who had 
been witnesses of the miracles of Jesus, flocked to Jerusalem. 

VOL. I. 8 



H4 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

inclined. We see, by this means, how far we are from 
having acquired that virtue the necessity of which we have 
just recognized. This practice is of great importance. 
" Some people," said St. Vincent of Paul, " have beautiful 
thoughts and good feelings, but they do not apply them to 
their own case, and do not make sufficient reflections on 
their own interior condition, and yet it has often been urged 
that when God communicates some light or some good 
impulses in prayer, we should always make them serve our 
own especial needs. We must consider our own defects, 
confess them and acknowledge them before God, and take 
an earnest resolution to correct them. 

134. (4) Petition. The fourth part of discursive prayer 
is the petition. It should be made in the way of colloquy 
and earnest supplication. The soul, continuing in the 
presence of God, addresses itself to Him with fervour and 
confidence ; it should regard Him less as a severe Master 
than as a benefactor full of compassion, a Father over 
flowing with affection and goodness, a most tender and 
devoted Friend. Speaking, then, to Him with a holy 
freedom, the soul will remind Him of the promises which 
He has attached to prayer, promises so clear and so con 
soling. 

Petite et ctccipietis, etc. . . . quod cum que petieritis, etc. 
(Ask and you shall receive ... all that you ask the 
Father in My name, etc.). Again, it will confess its 
own weakness, its incapacity, too often proved by past 
experience, but it will add : Domine si vis, potes me mundare 
(Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean) ; and 
again, with St. Paul, " I can do all things through Him 
Who strengtheneth me." 

The soul will declare the purity of its intentions. It 
is not only for its own personal benefit that it makes these 
petitions ; it is also for the honour of God, to Whom it will 
thus be able to render better service and greater glory. 
Finally, it will appeal to the merits of our Lord, for although 
it has of itself no right of its own, no claim to urge, as it 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 115 

must needs humbly confess, yet it may rest with confidence 
upon the Passion of the Saviour. Why did the Word of 
God become incarnate, why did He impose upon Himself 
labours so great, sufferings so cruel, if it were not to merit 
for us the most precious and the most abundant graces ? 

A short colloquy with Mary, our tender mother, with 
our good Angel, with our holy patron, and the Saints to 
whom we have a special devotion, will conclude this fourth 
part. 

Let us note well that the petition is the most important 
part of mental prayer, 1 or, to put it better, real prayer only 
begins with it. As long as the soul does not turn to God 
in order to speak to Him, it may, it is true, meditate, but 
it does not pray, it does not make mental prayer. 

Some persons do not understand this, and in the course 
of a half-hour s exercise spend all their time in reflection 
without saying anything to God. Even when to their 
reflections they have added holy desires and generous 
resolutions, this still does not constitute prayer. Doubt 
less the mind has not alone been engaged : the heart has 
been inflamed, it has turned ardently towards the good, 
but it has not outpoured itself into the heart of God. Such 
meditations are almost barren : they soon engender fatigue 
and weariness, and often, also, discouragement, and the 
relinquishment of this holy exercise. 

I 35- (5) Resolutions. It now only remains to make 
resolutions. This is the fifth and last point in meditation. 
By the considerations the mind is illuminated ; the remem 
brance of God s benefits has engendered confidence and 
gratitude. In the petitions the heart has become enkindled, 
its ardent supplications have brought about a sweet in 
timacy between God a.nd the faithful soul. Acts of love 
have been produced ; but this love would remain feeble 

1 To the petition praise and thanksgiving may and should be 
Joined, if we reflect on God s greatness and on all His benefits. 
While with regard to promises, protestations, and offerings, they 
will accompany the resolutions. 

82 



n6 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

and sterile indeed did it not strengthen itself by means of 
generous resolutions. He who says, " My God, I love 
Thee/ and who is not willing to give any proof of his 
love, will be under a delusion. The desire to please God 
should be the motive of our resolutions ; inspired by love, 
they will be wiser, stronger, more efficacious, and they 
will help us to the better performance of this great duty 
of loving God, which should be the spring of all our actions 
and the perpetual nourishment of our hearts. 
I 1 * Resolutions should be special and real. General reso 
lutions, such as that of becoming better, serving God 
better, or resolutions which are to be carried out in a month 
or a year, will be useless. They must be particularized 
and denned. " To-day, in such circumstances, I will 
practise such a virtue, I will avoid such a bad action." 
They must be humble and confident ; confidence in God, 
and the humility which is mistrust of self, must always go 
together. Finally, they must be often repeated. It will 
be better to come back constantly to certain practical 
resolutions than to change every minute, and this even 
when we may have made them frequently without having 
kept them. " What is the use," people sometimes say, 
" of resolutions which we do not keep ?" The answer is 
that they serve insensibly to strengthen the will. By 
dint of saying, " I will," by dint of repeating it, even after 
falls which are often those of simple weakness, the will 
becomes firmer, and ends by being really strong. Take no 
resolutions and you will never correct yourself. Take 
them constantly, even after failure, and you will end by 
attaining to the object of your endeavours, and your 
constancy will be rewarded. 1 

136. Now hear the wise words oi St. Vincent of Paul. 
A member of the community, in giving an account of his 

1 " Even if the first resolutions have not been able to strengthen 
them [i.e., weak souls] at all, the second and third will do so more 
and more, and at last, by dint of constant resolves, they become 
resolute " (St. Francis of Sales, Letters, vol. vi., p. 406). 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 117 

prayer, had said that he doubted whether he ought ""to 
take resolutions at all, because of his failure to put them 
into practice. St. Vincent, beginning to speak, and 
addressing all present, said : We must not desist from 
making resolutions whenever we pray on account of our 
unfaithfulness in fulfilling them, just as we do not cease 
from taking food although we may seem to get no benefit 
thereby, for the making of resolutions is one of the most 
important parts of mental prayer, and we must dwell 
particularly upon them, and not so much upon the con 
siderations and the colloquy. The chief fruit of mental 
prayer consists in making good resolutions, making them 
strongly, establishing them firmly, being thoroughly con 
vinced of their importance, preparing ourselves well to carry 
them out, and foreseeing obstacles in order to overcome 
them. This is not all, however, for our resolutions them 
selves are, after all, nothing but physical and moral actions, 
and although we do well to form them in our hearts and to 
confirm ourselves therein, we must none the less recognize 
that what is good in them (their practice and results), 
depends absolutely upon God. 

" And what do you think to be the most frequent cause 
of our failing in our resolutions ? It is that we trust to 
them too much ; we reassure ourselves because of our 
good desires, we rely on our own strength, and this is why 
no good results ensue. This is why, having formed some 
resolutions in mental prayer, we must pray earnestly to 
God, invoking His grace instantly, with a great mistrust of 
ourselves, that it may please Him to communicate the 
necessary grace for the fructification of these resolutions. 
And even although we may afterwards fail, not once or twice 
only, but on several occasions and for a long time, and even 
although we have not put one of them into execution, we must 
never, for all that, fail to renew them and to have recourse to 
God s mercy, and implore the help of His grace. Our past 
faults should indeed humble us, but not so as to make us lose 
heart ; and into whatever faults we may fall we must not in 



n8 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

any way come short of the trust which God desires us to place 
in Him, but always take a fresh resolution to rise up again 
and guard against another fall by means of the help of His 
grace which we must ask of Him. Although physicians 
may see no results from the remedies which they give to a 
sick person, they do not consequently cease to continue 
and repeat them until they see some hope of recovery. 
If, then, we continue to apply the remedies for bodily 
sickness, however prolonged and extreme, even when no 
improvement is visible, how much more should we do the 
same for the infirmities of our souls, in which, when it so 
pleases God, grace works the greatest marvels !" " If he 
who forms holy resolutions," says the Imitation, " fails to 
perform them, how will it be with him who never forms 
them, or does so but feebly " (Book I., chap. xix.). 

When with beginners this prayer leads to solid and 
serious resolutions, it has been well performed, otherwise 
it has been defective ; resolutions are the decisive mark 
of good prayer (Libermann, Merits, p. no). The conclusion 
of the prayer will be very simple. Thank God briefly for 
having vouchsafed you His grace, ask His blessing, and 
" conclude with the Pater and Ave, which are the prayers 
common to and necessary for all the faithful " (The Devout 
Life). 

137. Such, in our opinion, is the system to be laid down 
for beginners. This methodical progress seems to us to 
be very desirable. Everything is connected, and has a 
logical sequence, and for this reason is easy to remember. 

Mental prayer, as thus set forth, cannot seem unattain 
able. Let us make those who complain of their inability 
to meditate look fairly at the divers points of this exercise 
in succession, and let us show them that each is within 
their power, and say, " What is there so difficult in this ? 
To put yourself in God s presence ? But you do it often ; 
you have to do it at the least every time that you pray, 
even vocally. The considerations ? But with a book it 
is child s play, and even without a book nothing can be 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 119 

easier than to represent, for instance, Death or the Judg 
ment, or the Passion of our Lord ; nothing easier than to 
draw conclusions which detach themselves of their own 
accord from the great truths, all the more because there is 
no necessity to dwell long on these reflections. Is it the 
personal application which alarms you ? But you con 
stantly make your examination of conscience, and the 
personal application is still simpler. You cannot say that 
it is the petitions which seem impracticable to you. I like 
to think, on the contrary, that you constantly address 
yourself in this way to our Lord, and are not reduced, like 
children, always to resort to formulas which you have by 
heart in order to speak to Him. To take resolutions, to 
consider beforehand how you are to keep them, and to 
guard against obstacles, these are not difficult things, either. 
Admit with a good grace, then, that your negligence with 
regard to such a salutary exercise proceeds, not from 
incapacity, but from a want of courage. 

3. Practical Ways of leading Souls to Meditation. 

138. Suarez, in his DeDevotione, chap, iv., No. 9, teaches 
that meditation is desirable for all the faithful, whatever 
their state of life, and that it ought to be suggested to every 
one as a necessary means of perfection. St. Vincent of 
Paul thought that persons of all conditions could practise 
meditation (Life by Abelly, Book III., chap. vii.). Even 
young people of thirteen and fourteen are capable of it. 
Only let them be carefully instructed in the proper method, 
giving them a table setting forth the necessary processes, 1 
and sometimes, if possible, carrying out the exercise before 
them above all, exhorting them thereto earnestly, en 
couraging them, and constantly asking them to give an 
account of their faithfulness in meditation ; thus solid 
and satisfactory results will be obtained. 

We must, however, know how to insist without being 

1 We subjoin in the Appendix a table for this purpose. 



120 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

importunate, proceeding rather by way of encouragement 
than reproof. If, for example, we are questioning a 
penitent on his faithfulness in prayer, and receive unsatis 
factory replies, we should simply say : " Well, this time 
you will be more faithful, for you see I am not discouraged, 
feeling sure that sooner or later I shall get you to be very 
exact in this duty." 

The strongest and most embarrassing objection is that 
of lack of leisure. But even this, St. Alphonsus tells us, 
ought not to stop the confessor. He must still require the 
penitent to apply himself to meditation, choosing the 
quietest moments in the day even his working hours, 
if he cannot manage anything else (Praxis, 123). 

Many occupations, in fact, are not so absorbing that we 
are unable, while attending to them, to make the various 
acts of meditation. If inevitable distractions result, God, 
having regard to the good- will, will by His more powerful 
graces supply what is lacking in the direction of exterior 
circumstances. 

139. Those who hear Mass, and are then immediately 
obliged to attend to their occupations, may perfectly 
accomplish the essential acts of this prayer while assisting 
at the holy sacrifice. At the beginning of Mass they will 
make the preparatory exercise presence of God, adoration, 
contrition, and invocation. 

During Mass they will reflect on our Saviour immolating 
Himself for us. They will then meditate on one or other 
of the four ends of the sacrifice adoration, thanksgiving, 
impetration, and expiation. Or they will recall our Lord s 
Passion, of which the Mass is the memorial, or even, accord 
ing to circumstances, some other subject. 

Then they will acknowledge all their sinfulness before 
God. Domine, non sum dignus (My God, I am but 
weakness and unworthiness). In these dispositions of 
humility they will make a spiritual Communion. 

After the priest s Communion they will lay their requests 
before God with the more confidence that they are quite 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 121 

close to Jesus, and that they can put their finger, so to 
speak, upon His mercy and goodness. Is there any occa 
sion where the benign compassion of our dear Saviour 
appears more clearly than upon the altar ? Finally, they 
will not leave their God without renewing their resolutions 
and assuring Him of their entire good- will and lively desire 
to please Him. 

140. It might be well, also, if one despaired of obtaining 
more, to impose a form of examination of conscience which 
would, up to a certain point, take the place of meditation. 
Such is the excellent method proposed by St. Ignatius 
(Spiritual Exercises, first week), which comprises all the 
essential parts of this prayer. This exercise should, 
according to the Saint, contain five parts : (i) Calling to mind 
God s benefits ; (2) invocation asking Him for light and 
dispositions of contrition and hatred of sin ; (3) examina 
tion of conscience, properly so called ; (4) fervent prayer 
for pardon ; (5) resolutions and good intentions. 

There can be no obstacle to thus putting oneself in 
God s presence, making in the first place the invocation 
which St. Ignatius gives for the second. The recollection 
of all God s benefits will come next, or else some other 
consideration, equally fitted as a preparation for the act of 
contrition for example, calling to mind God s tribunal, 
the Supreme Judge, or the thought of heaven, purgatory, 
and so on. As for the petition, or mental prayer properly 
so called, after the examination the penitent must be 
directed never to omit to persevere in it seriously, and to 
call upon God to bless his resolutions. 

We should thus have a methodical meditation such as 
we have described, and directors might advise this, and 
even order it, without calling it by its name. For there are 
persons who are terrified at the word " meditation," and 
cannot believe themselves to be capable of this exercise. 
We must therefore lead them, without their suspecting it, 
to the performance of these acts. It is thus that by con 
cealing them in things that they like, little children are got 



122 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

to take remedies which they would reject if they were 
warned beforehand of their presence. 

141. Others make use of spiritual reading for the same 
end. They will recommend that this should be preceded 
by the exercise of the presence of God ; the reading should 
be performed slowly, pausing from time to time in order 
that the truths which are encountered may penetrate, and 
then the personal application will be made. Finally, the 
penitent will be advised to combine this with the offering 
of fervent petitions concluding by making sincere promises 
to God. The method is the same, and under the name of 
spiritual reading it is really mental prayer which is 
obtained. 

Dwelling upon the mysteries of the Rosary will also serve 
the same purpose. This is obligatory if the numberless 
indulgences granted to the confraternity are to be gained, 
and if the faithful can be induced to do this it is a step in 
the direction of meditation. St. Teresa (Way of Perfection, 
chap, xxvi.) recommends a mode of prayer intended 
to replace meditation with those who are incapable of 
giving their minds to this exercise. We will speak of it 
when we come to deal with Affective Prayer (Part III.), 
under which heading the kind of prayer described by the 
Saint must be classed. 

The director will require his penitents to place themselves 
in God s presence at the beginning of their vocal prayers. 
He will afterwards lead them the more easily to mental 
prayer. And would it not be well, from the same motive, 
to advise this practice before any spiritual reading that he 
may impose ? 

And, finally, the mode of prayer taught by St. Ignatius 
(which consists in reciting, piece by piece, some vocal 
prayer, such as the Pater, so to speak tasting, and even 
meditating, on each word, each sentence) may also, if need 
be, serve as a substitute for ordinary mental prayer. 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 123 

4. Subjects, Place, Posture, Time, Length of the 
Meditation. 

Let us now say a few words on the conditions under 
which the meditations should be made the subjects, place, 
time, and the duration suitable for this holy exercise. 

142. Subjects. First of all the subjects. There are, 
says Louis of Granada (On Prayer, part i., chap, i., 9), no 
better or more efficacious subjects for meditation than 
those which we take from the principal articles and 
mysteries of our Faith, such as the Passion and Death of 
our Saviour, the Judgment, Hell, Paradise, God s gifts, and 
similarly the recollection of our sins, our life, and death. 
Each of these, well weighed and considered, is very effectual 
for leading our hearts and affections to the love and fear 
of God, to a horror of sin, and a contempt for the world. 

St. Ignatius follows this system in his book of the 
Spiritual Exercises. This work (where even the most 
advanced may find salutary lessons) addresses itself 
specially to sincere but imperfect Christians, faithful souls 
inspired by right sentiments, but feeble and inconstant, 
and no other work shows better, or indeed as well, the way 
by which the complete conversion of this class may be 
attempted. For it is by a profound consideration of great 
truths that the saintly and illustrious author endeavours to 
win their hearts, and to attach them irrevocably and 
unreservedly to the service of God. 

Experience confirms the unanimous teaching of the 
masters, and proves that we must first of all probe these 
great truths, returning to them constantly at the outset of 
the spiritual life, penetrating ourselves with them, under 
penalty of building our houses on the sand and raising but 
a fragile edifice. The other mysteries of our Lord s life 
and the teachings of the Gospel also supply material for 
these pious meditations. This matter is abundant, and 
we may even say inexhaustible. The different virtues and 
the duties of our state are also excellent subjects. 



124 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

But whatever be the topic chosen, let us never forget 
to reflect on God s goodness and His love for us. The evi 
dences of His love are everywhere, and the Christian soul 
cannot devote too much care towards discovering them 
and searching into them. Of course, we can never really 
know the Sacred Heart of Jesus, nor comprehend all the 
depth, power, and extent of His love ; but the truer our 
conception of it, the more lively will be our desire to love 
Him, the more resolutely determined shall we be to give 
Him back love for love. 

143. Place. 1 Mental prayer can be made everywhere, 2 
but in order to avoid distractions it is best to choose a 
solitary and secluded place. " But thou, when thou shalt 
pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut thy door, 
pray to thy Father in secret " (Matt. vi. 6). God s house 
is also referred to in the Gospels as " the place of prayer " 
Domus mea domus orationis est (Luke xix. 46) and our 
churches, even more than the Temple of the Old Law, 
favour recollection and fervour, for Jesus dwells there, 
and from out the Tabernacle proceeds the Divine effluence 
by which faith is rekindled and love inflamed. 

144. Posture. In order to pray better the posture should 
be humble and recollected the exterior attitude con 
tributes to the good dispositions of the soul. Too much 
seeking after ease must be avoided, but the body should 
not be overtaxed. If we give ourselves up to softness the 
mind will be more liable to distractions, but the attention 
would be equally diverted were we to set our minds upon 
making the body suffer. To do so for a few minutes, to 
maintain a fatiguing position in order to conquer nature, 
is an excellent practice which helps us to get the better of 
distractions. But such a course over-prolonged might 
become a source of preoccupation, and be consequently 
harmful. 

145. Time. This prayer may be made at all hours of 

1 Cf. Suarez, De Devotione, cap. viii. 

2 Volo viros orare in omni loco (i Tim. ii. 8). 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 125 

the day, but the Doctors agree that the morning is the most 
suitable time. The body is then more free, distractions 
are fewer, and the prayer exercises a happy influence upon 
the whole day. The Holy Scriptures refer especially to 
the morning as the hour of prayer. 

146. Duration. What should be the duration of this 
prayer ? St. Teresa is commonly credited with the 
saying : " Pray for a quarter of an hour daily and your 
salvation is assured." But nowhere in any of her writings 
have we found any such words. The Doctors and Saints 
all require a longer period, and for this St. Peter of Alcan 
tara gives an excellent reason. " If the time is too short 
it is all spent in ridding the mind of distractions and regu 
lating the heart, and by the time that we are ready, and 
should have begun the exercise, we have to leave it. It is 
with good reason, then, we advise that the longest possible 
time should be given to this prayer, and it would be better 
to devote a considerable time to it once a day rather than 
a shorter period twice " (On Prayer, chap. xii.). 

Those writing especially for religious stipulate for an 
hour and a half or two hours. 1 Thus, Louis of Granada 
(part i., chap, xi.), St. Peter of Alcantara (he. cit.), 
St. Teresa (Life, chap, viii.), St. Francis of Sales (who 
is thinking chiefly of those who are living in the world, 
and are given principally to the active life), fix the time 
at one hour (Devout Life, part ii., chap. i.). He began, 
however, by requiring only half or three-quarters of an 
hour, as his letters prove. St. Alphonsus wishes the time 
to be gradually increased as fervour augments, but that 
only half an hour should be exacted at first. 

For those who declare that they can only give a quarter 
of an hour to this exercise would it not be better to advise 
them to devote the quarter of an hour exclusively to mental 
prayer, and then continue it while at work, so that the 

1 They allow, however, this modification, that if the prayer 
follows any other devotional exercise, or if the hour is one where 
recollection is easily attained, the time may be curtailed. 



126 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

proper time may, after all, be secured. A quarter of an 
hour s meditation would, doubtless, be better than nothing, 
but the effects of such a short prayer would be so slight, 
the soul would derive so little fruit, and especially so little 
consolation, that it would never become attached to it, 
and would not long continue faithful to this holy exercise. 

147. Continuity of Mental Prayer* Is it a fault to 
interrupt one s mental prayer ? In itself no, if the inter 
ruption is for a good reason and a motive which is respectful 
to God. But as these interruptions, even when involuntary, 
are always harmful to the soul, and because the cause must 
often be attributed to the Evil One, they should be carefully 
avoided. 

Besides, these interruptions are often slightly culpable, 
because they arise from negligence and frivolity of mind. 
They are for the same reason disrespectful toward God, 
and are opposed to our spiritual good. And this is true also 
of interruptions in vocal prayer. 

148. Distractions. Christians giving themselves to men 
tal prayer are often prevented from perseverance by the 
distractions which they experience. They think that it 
is time lost, and that meditation in their case is an abso 
lutely useless exercise. They find it, in fact, hard to 
accept the truth of the teaching that when distractions 
are involuntary they in no way affect the value of the 
prayer. God requires of us our good-will only, and not 
success, and in His eyes a prayer full of involuntary dis 
tractions has as much worth as if it had been quite free 
from them. Upon the soul itself these distressing but 
guiltless distractions may have the most salutary effect ; 
they oblige it to carry out a highly meritorious conflict, 
and lead it to act in a more disinterested manner, persever 
ing in this struggle with itself, not because of the consola 
tions which are denied it, but in the pure spirit of duty 
and attachment to God. 

149. That a distraction should be really involuntary 

1 Suarez, De Devotione, cap. v. 



ON MENTAL PRAYER 127 

three elements are necessary (Suarez, loc. cit.) : (i) That 
we should have begun with the fixed intention not to 
yield to any distraction ; (2) that we should repel them so 
soon as they are perceived, otherwise we should revoke our 
first intention ; (3) that we prepare ourselves before begin 
ning to pray in such a way that we cut off all occasions for 
wandering thoughts. Again, distractions must be com 
bated without too much intensity of thought. " If," 
says St. Peter of Alcantara, " attention and recollection 
of heart are absolutely necessary, the attention must none 
the less be quiet and moderate, otherwise it will be harmful 
to the health, and will become an obstacle to devotion. 
Some persons tire their minds by excessive efforts to 
attend to the subject of their meditation ; others, that they 
may escape this difficulty, remain slack, idle, and ready to 
be carried away by every wind that blows. We must 
avoid these two extremes, and take the middle course. . . . 
even as the rider of a vicious horse must hold the reins 
firmly that is to say, neither too tight nor too loose, in 
order that he may neither jib nor gallop at a dangerous 
pace." 



128 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 



THE ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 

PRELIMINARY NOTE 

150. By the illuminative life we mean the condition of 
souls already advanced in excellence, who easily avoid 
mortal sins, labour sincerely after progress, but who are 
still weak with regard to venial sin, into which they fre 
quently fall. Having much less to fear from the passions 
which may perhaps have hitherto dominated him, the 
Christian now strives to fan within his heart the flame of 
holy charity, and thus to become more habituated to, and 
more established in, the practice of the Christian virtues. 
Proficientes ad hoc principaliter intendunt ut in eis charitas 
per augmentum robonetus (St. Thomas, 2, 2, q. 24, a. 9). 

Many souls, says Suarez, continue all their lives in this 
condition. It is, for that matter, a precious and extremely 
meritorious state, although still very far removed from 
perfection. The majority of ascetic books (The Imitation, 
Devout Life, St. Vincent Ferrer s Treatise on the Spiritual 
Life, Rodriguez on Christian Perfection, etc.) suppose that 
this degree of the Christian life has already been arrived 
at. The consolations and counsels which they contain 
are, in fact, addressed to such souls as are already resolved 
to strive after perfection ; while in the states which we have 
previously described the wish to be saved and to lead the 
life of a good Christian indeed exists, but the desire for 
progress is either absent (the first degree), or is still feeble 
and only intermittently apparent (the second degree). When 
anyone shows a taste for reading such writings it probably 
signifies attainment, at least, to the illuminative life. 



BOOK III 

THIRD DEGREE DEVOUT SOULS 

PART I. THE PHASES OF PIETY 
CHAPTER I 

HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO THE ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 

i. Sensible Consolations. 

151. JUST as some years must elapse before man passes 
from infancy to the vigour of youth, so the Christian does 
not arrive all at once at that hearty and lasting resolution 
of giving himself seriously to the service of God, and this 
is a disposition which marks the youth of the spiritual 
life. 

" The ancient Fathers," says St. Dorotheus, " held as 
an unchangeable maxim that whatever the spirit does not 
joyfully embrace cannot be of long duration. While the 
practice of piety has no great charm for the soul, it may 
indeed produce devout acts from time to time, it may even 
make laudable and painful efforts, but, in accordance with 
the axiom that which is violent cannot endure, it will 
lack constancy, and periods of indifference will succeed to 
the moments of devotion." 

How, then, can the soul be brought to tread steadily 
in the path of piety ? By means of the sensible consolations 
which will be vouchsafed to it. 

VOL. i. 129 9 



i 3 o THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

We have, in fact, said (No. 76) that some Christians, after 
seeming to be stationary in the lowest degree for a long 
time, suddenly appear to be strongly affected by grace. 
They acquire a taste for religious practices ; they feel a 
greater attraction for God s service ; prayer, and the fre- 
quentation of the Sacraments, become full of charm to 
them. It is as though the spirit has received new en 
lightenment and a more lively understanding of the truths 
of Christianity. Above all, the heart is touched, and is 
able far better than before to enjoy the consolations of 
devotion. 

152. To some this compassionate gift of God is made 
at the very beginning of conversion ; to others it comes in 
youth, when the reason is sufficiently developed. More 
often, however, the soul experiences this infusion of grace, 
which is so salutary and so useful for its advancement, 
when it has served God faithfully, though without much 
ardour, for some time. 

But this favour of God may come when His servant has 
done nothing unusual, and in such a case it is often on the 
occasion of some exterior event that this happy change 
takes place a mission, a Lenten conference, a retreat, or 
a pilgrimage. At other times (and we think more fre 
quently) it will come as a reward for some rather more 
generous exertions than usual. According to St. Teresa, 
it is by perseverance in well-doing and victory in the fight 
that the doors of these third Mansions are thrown open to 
us. The soul, then, has already given proof of a certain 
fidelity, when God, in order to assist its weakness, which 
is still so great, communicates to it His powerful graces, 
full of sweetness and delight. 

" When we first begin to give ourselves to God," says 
Father Grou, " He treats us very gently, in order that He 
may gain our affections. He fills the soul with peace and 
ineffable joy. He causes us to take delight in retreats, 
recollection, and pious exercises. He makes the practice 
of virtue easy for us. Nothing seems a sacrifice. We 



HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 131 

believe ourselves to be capable of everything " (Manual 
of Interior Souls). 

" We are to keep in mind," says St. John of the Cross, 
" that a soul, when seriously converted to the service of 
God, is in general spiritually nursed and caressed, as an 
infant by its loving mother, who warms it in her bosom, 
nourishes it with her own sweet milk, feeds it with tender 
and delicate food, carries it in her arms, and fondles it. 
But as the child grows up the mother withholds her caresses, 
hides her breasts, and anoints them with the juice of bitter 
aloes. She carries the infant in her arms no longer, but 
makes it walk on the ground, so that, losing the habits of 
an infant, it may apply itself to greater and more sub 
stantial pursuits. The grace of God, like a loving mother, 
as soon as the soul is regenerated in the new fire and 
fervour of His service, treats it in the same way ; for it 
enables it, without labour on its own part, to find its 
spiritual milk, sweet and delicious, in all the things of God, 
and in devotional exercises great sweetness, God giving it 
the breasts of His own tender love, as to a tender babe. 
Such souls, therefore, delight to spend many hours, and 
perhaps whole nights, in prayer. Their pleasures are 
penances, their joy is fasting, and their consolations lie 
in the use of the Sacraments and in speaking of Divine 
things." ! 

And while these spiritual delights develop a lively attrac 
tion for piety in the soul, they breed a distaste for the 
vanities and pleasures of the world. " I am not astonished, 
my dear cousin," wrote St. Francis of Sales, " if God, while 
giving you a delight in His presence, makes the world, 
little by little, distasteful to you. Doubtless, my daughter, 
nothing makes aloes seem so bitter as feeding on honey. 
When we taste the joys of Divine things, the things of this 
world can no longer attract us " (Letter 885). 

In another place the holy Doctor says : " These are the 
sweetmeats which God gives as baits to His little children, 
1 The Obscure Night, Book I., chap. i. 

93 



132 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

the cordial waters with which He comforts them, and 
sometimes, also, they are the pledges of the eternal reward " 
(Devout Life, part iv., chap. xiii.). 

2. The Nature of these Spiritual Delights. 

153. For dealing with this question we must resort to a 
little psychology, and briefly recall the philosophical prin 
ciples upon which the distinction between the faculties of 
the soul is based. There are two kinds of beings which 
present themselves to the soul those that are sensible 
and those that are purely spiritual. The first are perceived 
either by the external senses (sight, hearing, taste, etc.) or 
by the imagination, which is also a sense a little more 
interior than the others, but really equally sensual, since, 
after all, that which enters into it always takes a bodily 
form " (Bossuet, Instruction on the States of Prayer, Book V.). 
Spiritual things are perceived by the intellect or the reason. 
It is by the intellect that we know the world of spirits 
God, the angels, and the human soul. By the intellect 
we discover the moral qualities of our fellow-men ; by reason 
we perceive the advantages of such and such a course of 
action. 

154. To the two kinds of knowledge furnished by the 
senses and the reason, correspond certain movements of 
the soul which are called passions in philosophic language 
and feelings in ordinary speech. Accordingly, when we 
perceive a good or agreeable object, we instinctively feel 
towards it a movement of attraction. If the object is bad 
or repugnant, the movement is one of repulsion. If we 
possess the beloved object, we feel joy ; if it is taken away 
from us, it is then sorrow that we experience. 

We call the faculty which produces these different feelings 
tlje appetite, or the appetitive faculty. The word properly 
indicates the movement of love or inclination towards the 
good perceived, either by the senses or the intellect, because 
this is the primary movement, the one from which the 



HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 133 

others all proceed. " The other passions," says Bossuetj 
" have their origin in love alone, which includes all and 
excites all. Hatred of one object proceeds only from the 
love which is felt for another. I hate sickness merely 
because I love health ; I feel an aversion for this man 
only because he puts an obstacle in the way of my pos 
sessing what I love. For desire is merely love yearning 
after the good which we possess not, just as joy is only love 
attaching to that which we possess. Shunning society and 
melancholy are love fleeing from that evil by which it is 
deprived of its good, and love which is afflicted by the 
deprivation. Boldness is love which will undertake the 
most difficult tasks in order to possess itself of the beloved 
object, and fear is love which sees itself threatened with 
the loss of its desire and is troubled. Hope is love which 
flatters itself that it will soon possess its prize, and despair 
is love disconsolate because it has lost what it ever seeks 
for, and therefore suffers from a despondency which it can 
not shake off. Anger is love up in arms at the prospect of 
losing its treasure, and striving to defend it. In a word, 
take away love, and there are no passions ; instal it, and 
you give them all birth " (The Knowledge of God and of 
Oneself, i. 6). 

These passions will be sensible if their object is sensible, 
such as the emotions produced by the sight or by the 
imaginative representation of whatever excites sensuality. 
These sensible emotions suppose the union of the soul and 
the body, and it is each of these, or, rather, the human 
being composed of both, which is then moved. We possess 
them in common with the animals. 

The faculty which is the seat of these sensible emotions 
is called by philosophers the sensitive appetite. 

155. Spiritual objects perceived with the intellect by 
the aid of ideas, or by reasoning, produce similar move 
ments in the soul. These are either spontaneous (motus 
primoprimi) or deliberate. The movements of love, desire, 
fear, satisfaction, and regret, are amongst them. So, if 



134 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

we suggest a difficult problem to a mathematician, he 
wishes to find the solution to it. This spontaneous desire, 
once accepted and consented to, becomes the determina 
tion to find it. When the solution is discovered, a feeling 
of satisfaction is produced in the soul. The faculty which 
pursues or rejects this good or this evil when recognized 
by the aid of the intellect, and which rejoices at it or is 
grieved, is called by philosophers the intellectual appetite 
or the will. It exists in the soul, and not in the body, and 
is found not only in man, but in such purely spiritual 
beings as the angels and the devils. 

The movements of this faculty love, desire, volitions, 
regrets, etc. being wholly spiritual, are not perceived by 
the senses. When they occur, however, the body is often 
conscious of emotions which are wrongly confounded with 
purely spiritual feelings. It will not be amiss to go into 
this point more fully. 

156. Taken individually, the two appetites are quite 
distinct. In animals we find only the sensitive appetite, 
in angels the intellectual appetite ; but in man they are so 
closely interwoven that it is sometimes difficult to dis 
tinguish the action of the individual appetite. The chief 
cause of this intimate connection is that the same circum 
stance usually acts simultaneously upon the senses and 
the intellect. The husband may love his wife both because 
of the outward beauty which charms him and the moral 
qualities that he sees in her, such as kindness, devotion, 
wit, and prudence. This husband s affection will be at 
once sensible and spiritual. His wife s presence will cause 
him at one and the same time sensible joy and intelligent 
satisfaction. In her absence his imagination will depict 
the object of his affection, far away from him, and he will 
experience a feeling of sensible sadness, while the con 
sideration of the services of which he will be deprived will 
also cause him regret. 

Obviously, in this case both appetites are affected simul 
taneously. It is just the same with those aesthetic emo- 



HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 135 

tions where the intellect grasps the ideal under sensible 
forms. So before a beautiful spectacle, a sweet melody, 
or the canvas of a great master, a man is deeply moved 
both in his intellectual and in his sensible being. Further, 
even when the object is purely spiritual, the emotions 
which it excites, and which should also be purely spiritual, 
often take possession of the sensitive appetite, and this 
then experiences sensible emotions corresponding to those 
of the will. For example, when the soul is pleased at 
the news of some happy occurrence, or the success of 
some enterprise, the heart expands ; when it is troubled, 
meets with some obstacle, or, again, feels regret for some 
past fault, it contracts. This connection is, nevertheless, 
not essential ; the intellectual appetite may be affected 
without any corresponding action of the sensitive appetite. 
Sometimes contrition is very intense in a soul which is 
given over to dryness, and sorrows to find itself so unfeeling. 
157. This point settled, we say : These are the sensible 
delights which God employs in order to move souls newly 
given over to His service, and to establish their feet in 
the ways of devotion. These sweetnesses, which are often 
called spiritual consolations 1 (Memor fui judiciorum tuorum 
Domine et consolatus sum), 2 and which theologians also call 

1 St. Teresa calls them " the contentments," las contentos (Interior 
Castle, Fourth Mansion, chap. i.). 

2 The word " consolation " has been used for a long time by 
ascetic writers. Holy Scripture, the Fathers, and the Imitation 
have all employed it. But St. Ignatius seems to have formulated its 
exact meaning. " I call consolation," he says, " an interior move 
ment which is excited in the soul, and by which it commences to 
burn with love for its Creator. . . . Consolation, again, opens that 
fount of tears by which the soul, moved with sorrow for its sins, the 
Passion of Jesus Christ, or any other consideration concerning His 
service and His praise, is borne on to the love of its Creator. In fact, 
I mean by consolation every increase of hope, faith, and charity, 
and every interior joy which calls and attracts the soul to heavenly 
things and the care of its salvation, calming and pacifying it in its 
Creator and Lord " (Spiritual Exercises, " Discernment of Spirits," 
third rule). 



136 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

accidental devotion, 1 suppose, it is true, the action of the 
spiritual faculties, as do also the aesthetic emotions of 
which we have been speaking. But the part played by 
the sensible faculties is so great, and the soul is so actively 
impressed by the joys which take possession of the sensi 
tive appetite, that, ordinarily speaking, we pass over the 
share taken by the understanding, and call these pheno 
mena the sensible operations of grace. Such are the 
emotions produced either by an imaginative representation 
of holy things, such as the Birth and Passion of our Lord, 
Heaven, the Judgment, or by exterior objects or actions 
ceremonies, gorgeous services, music, images, and pictures. 

" God in His infinite mercy/ says the Ven. Fr. Liber- 
mann, " deals with this soul according to the weakness of 
its nature, and through the side by which it is attracted 
to Him. It is completely given over to the senses, accus 
tomed to receive its impressions by the senses, to judge, 
love, and act by the senses, and it lives by the senses only. 
Seeing it in this condition, and desiring to attract it to a 
life of holiness, the Divine grace operates necessarily on 
the interior senses, making it perceive God and Divine 
things by the aid of the imagination, acting on the senses 
(the sensitive appetite), and giving the soul a sensible 
impulsion towards God. 2 And as the enjoyment is great, 
so also is the violence of the impassioned movement which 
leads to it. . . ." (Spiritual Writings, p. 408). 

" God disposes the sensible faculties so that they lend 
themselves to His merciful designs by way of sweetness, 
enjoyment, and satisfaction. These starved faculties, 
which have been filled with the corruptions of the creature, 
begin to see that in God alone their true good lies. They 
begin to break with the creature, and learn to seek refuge 
in God. This purifies them from the carnal desire for the 
creature. They are content ; they enjoy God ; they love 

1 Cf. Suarez, De Devotione, vi. 18, 19. 

2 Cf. St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, i., ii., 
chap. xvii. 



HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 137 

to take their pleasure in Him only " (Spiritual Writings, 
p. 226). 

158. Man s sensible faculties are thus subjected to the 
workings of grace. In the imperfect, who habitually allow 
themselves to be led by the least noble portion of their 
being (the sensible part), these are the dominant faculties. 
This is so true that even their spiritual defects, such as 
pride, usually clothe themselves with sensible forms, the 
imagination 1 and the sensitive appetite playing as great 
a part in these defects as do the intellectual faculties. It 
would be seemingly impossible, therefore, or, at least, little 
conformable with the ordinary course of things, to bring 
these imperfect natures under the yoke of grace by con 
siderations of pure reason and by attractions communi 
cated to the will independently of the sensitive appetite. 
The reaction of the sensible faculties would be too great 
were not they themselves first entirely captivated by the 
delights vouchsafed to them by God. 

159. These spiritual consolations are not unknown even 
in the inferior degrees of the purgative life. There are 
cicumstances in which the senses are so deeply affected 
that few Christian souls remain cold and unmoved for 
example, a first Communion day, and those touching 
solemnities of Catholic worship, processions of the Blessed 
Sacrament, some unusual ceremonial, missions, or feasts, 
or those great religious pilgrimages where faith is so 
wonderfully manifested. In all of these cases the emotion 
may be lively and consolations abundant. Even souls in 

1 By the word " imagination " is frequently meant that activity 
of the spirit which draws up plans, makes combinations, calculates 
or dreams, counts upon or prepares the future. That, doubtless, 
is the product of several faculties, but the imagination we use the 
word in its philosophic sense plays a great part therein. How 
many images and pictures does it not cause to pass before the eyes 
of the soul ? If we appear to attribute all these devices or dreams 
to the imagination alone, it is because it has the most important share 
in them. It is the imagination which draws away and seduces the 
reason, of whose errors it is nearly always the cause. 



!38 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

a state of sin are sometimes deeply moved by these spec 
tacles, and carry away a very salutary impression. But 
apart from such occasions beginners are little favoured 
by these inward delights. They enjoy a certain peace, 
they experience a certain satisfaction at some duty ful 
filled, which keeps up their fidelity and helps to maintain 
them in their state ; but these are by no means the sweet 
joys of which we speak, and which the more advanced souls 
experience in the ordinary exercise of their Christian duties. 
160. The moment when this operation of grace takes 
place is an important one in the history of the spiritual 
life, and it would be a serious misfortune if the director 
failed to take note of the occurrence ; for he would then 
be unable to further it, and the effect would be greatly 
impaired. It is rare, moreover, for those under direction 
to make known their lively and sweet emotions of their 
own accord. An attentive and watchful director will 
nevertheless be able to recognize them by certain signs, 
or, at any rate, be led to suspect their presence ; and then 
it will be easy for him, by a few questions, to change his 
suspicions to a certainty. He will perceive that a soul 
has suddenly become more regular in frequenting the 
Sacraments, more eager to receive the Holy Eucharist, 
more capable of surmounting obstacles which had hitherto 
kept it away from Communion. It will show greater 
assiduity at prayer and devotional exercises, less human 
respect, and a clearer and more tender conscience, while 
at the same time the desire for advancement expresses 
itself by obvious efforts and requests for counsel, etc. 
Another sign of sensible grace is the taste which a soul 
discovers for reading spiritual writings and hearing sermons. 
Everything which speaks to it of God moves and delights 
it. Again, if formerly it has been guilty of serious dis 
orders, the spiritual father will discern in it a lively sorrow 
for its former faults, and a serious desire of making repara 
tion for them. Less advanced souls, and those not favoured 
with these sensible graces, are indeed sincerely resolved 



HOW THE SOUL ATTAINS TO ILLUMINATIVE LIFE 139 

not to fall back into their old errors ; but they do not ex 
perience these lively sentiments of repentance. They 
scarcely remember their sins, and do not grieve for them 
very deeply. 

By these different marks the director will recognize the 
interior workings of the Spirit of God, and often by these 
same signs he can judge whether the Divine ^action is more 
or less intense. In fact, these sweetnesses, these pleasant 
emotions which take possession of the heart, and win it 
over to the service of God, vary in duration and intensity 
in different subjects. 

God, the Master of His own gifts, can grant them more 
or less lavishly according to His good pleasure. On the 
other hand, the action of grace may be favoured by a more 
perfect fidelity, a profounder recollection, a more prayerful 
spirit, and one of closer union to God. The impression 
will then be active and lasting, and may endure throughout 
a whole day. On the other hand, by half-heartedness, a 
tendency to levity, or an inconstancy in well-doing, the 
soul can partially obstruct the workings of grace, and the 
effects will then be less perceptible and the progress slower. 

3. Duration of this State of Delights. 

161. This much to be desired condition, in which the 
sensible faculties are purified and detached from their 
vicious tendencies by spiritual delights, is far from being 
identical in every soul. We have just seen how with some 
it is a powerful current, while with others it is weaker. 
Let us add that this happy state is at times much pro 
longed, and at others, again, it is of very short duration. 

Young priests and novices who are really good and 
regular, usually remain under this influence during the first 
portion of their seminary life or novitiate, 1 and some even 

1 " Persons who have withdrawn from, the world are liable to 
the trial of which we speak this aridity of the obscure night 
sooner than others," says St. John of the Cross, "and continually 
from their entrance into the interior life. . . . Very little time 



140 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

longer. Not, indeed, that they are exempt during this 
period from all conflicts. In this life a certain alternation 
of joys and sorrows, of strife and repose, is always present. 
But, generally speaking, their trials are light, the practice 
of virtue is powerfully facilitated by the consolations which 
it affords, and if the repression of their faults costs them 
something, it is very little, so strongly are they urged 
thereto by grace. Satis suaviter equitat, quern gratia Dei 
portat. 1 

162. During this period of spiritual youth consolations 
are usually the reward of fidelity to graces already received. 
On the other hand, the diminution of these sensible delights 
is often the result of inconstancy, a lesson given by God 
to teach us to watch over ourselves more carefully, and to 
be more generous in self-denial. 2 This trial, however, like 
those which come later, may have as its aim the confirma 
tion of the beginner in piety by the greater efforts which 
he is then constrained to make. In this case it is not 
continuous, and timely intervals of rest and sweetness 
soon come to sustain his weakness and rekindle his 
ardour. 

When the soul is truly faithful and recollected, when it 
applies itself bravely to the practice of humility and mortifi 
cation, as also when it lovingly accepts the troubles which 
are permitted to it by the mercy of Divine Providence, it 
then obtains from God abundant and prolonged consola 
tion, and soon enters into the state of fervour. Later on, 
when treating of the fourth degree of the spiritual life, we 

elapses before they enter into this night and fall into dryness 
(Obscure Night, Book I., chap. viii.). But we must add that before 
they leave the world the majority of these souls have already ex 
perienced great spiritual consolations, and in this abundance of 
sensible graces have nearly always found strength to overcome the 
difficulties which the world and the devil oppose to their vocation. 

1 He advances easily and joyfully whom the grace of God 
upholds. 

2 Cf. St. Ignatius, Exercises, " Discernment of Spirits," first week, 
ninth rule. 



BUDDING PIETY 141 

shall show the path which it then follows. For the present, 
we are concerned with those who do not rise to such heights 
of perfection, and who remain in what we will call the state 
of simple piety. 

Christians of the third degree, then, are either those who 
are still in the effervescence of a budding piety, or those 
who, after a long sojourn in the state of simple piety, have 
not responded sufficiently generously to the calls of grace 
to merit being raised to a higher rung on the ladder of 
sanctity. 



CHAPTER II 

BUDDING PIETY 

I. Fruits produced in the Soul by Sensible Consolations. 

163. BEFORE proceeding to describe the work of grace and 
its method of operation, we will show the result of this state 
of sensible delight and enjoyment upon a Christian heart. 
" To return to what I began to say," says St. Teresa, 
" about the souls which have entered the third mansion, 
God has shown them no small favour, but a very great 
one, in enabling them to pass through the first difficulties. 
Through God s goodness I believe there are many such 
people in the world. They are very desirous not to offend 
His Majesty even by venial sins ; they love penance, and 
spend hours in meditation ; they employ their time well, 
exercise themselves in works of charity to their neighbours, 
are well ordered in their conversation and dress, and those 
who own a household govern it well. This is certainly to 
be desired, and there appears no reason to forbid them 
entrance to the last mansions. Nor will our Lord deny it 
them if they desire it, for this is the right disposition for 
receiving all His favours." * 

1 Third Mansion, chap. i. 



142 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

This is indeed the portrait of the devout soul. Thank 
God that now, as in the days of St. Teresa, there are many 
such in the world. Doubtless, as we shall soon show, they 
are far from being without defects, but they are never 
theless the life of the Church, the support of good works, 
the instruments which God often uses to bring back sinners 
and to strengthen the weak. Strongly attached to God s 
cause, these devout Christians feel a great aversion for the 
enemies of the Church. Their faith is much stronger and 
more enlightened than in the lower degrees. If, unfor 
tunately, they fall, they are deeply conscious of the gravity 
of their faults, and their remorse is bitter. They under 
stand God s love for them, and not by a reasonable affec 
tion only, but with sentiments of filial tenderness, their 
hearts go out towards Him. 

164. Who has not encountered numbers of Christian souls 
in these excellent dispositions ? Yes, we repeat it : dis 
positions so little natural presuppose a quite extraordinary 
action of grace, not only upon the intellect, but also upon 
the heart. 

How greatly they deceive themselves who imagine that 
a complete course of religious instruction suffices for the 
making of a good Christian ! A knowledge of Christian 
doctrine does not succeed in gaining over the will ; it 
cannot ensure to it that firmness which makes a fall im 
probable. Religious instruction is necessary. It is the 
requisite basis of the Christian edifice, but it is also 
necessary that a courageous practice of virtue shall have 
weakened the inclination to vice, and that grace, finding 
fewer obstacles in the way, should have been able to extend 
its dominion until it has touched the heart and penetrated 
it profoundly. Gustate et videte quonian suavis est Dominus. 
When the heart has thus " tasted and recognized how 
sweet the Lord is," when, ravished by His delights, it has 
given itself completely to Him not by the transitory gift 
of a day, which would pass away, and leave but few traces 
behind, but rather by a long and faithful service, faith 



BUDDING PIETY 143 

becomes deeper, and it is then more difficult for the soul s 
enemies to seduce it and turn it away from its duties. 

Before they can be rightly understood the truths of 
religion must have been practised and loved. Faith, which 
is one of the effects of grace, comes as much from the heart 
as from the intellect ; the will has as great a share in it 
as the reason. Thus, those deeply devout souls whom we 
meet in the world do not owe that almost unmovable 
constancy, that attachment to God which we so admire 
in them, to a more profound but purely theoretical know 
ledge of religion, neither must we seek to explain it by 
their home training. They have all been subjected to a 
special schooling in grace, an inward transformation, more 
or less slow, more or less complete, but always sweet and 
powerful. They have all known how to pray, to give 
themselves to serious reflection ; they have all had to strive 
and to practise self-denial, if only in the fight against their 
own failings, and this has been their part in the work of 
transformation. But they have all also experienced the 
twofold action of God upon His faithful souls namely, 
spiritual consolations and the trials which have refined 
their love. 

165. This is why it would be a move in the wrong direc 
tion to profess to obtain everything by means of instruc 
tion. A Christian education, a training in virtue, must, 
even with children, go hand in hand with lessons in the 
catechism ; and in the case of young men and women we 
must aim at obtaining a real devotion from them if their 
perseverance is to be assured. If there should happen to 
be any priests who have misunderstood, or, at least, im 
perfectly comprehended, these great principles, we could 
convince them out of their own experience. Whence have 
they derived their love for the Church, their zeal for God s 
glory, their spirit of fidelity to duty ? To explain these 
feelings, which have become, as it were, a second nature 
to them, must theyjnot go back to the days of their 
seminary life or novitiate, to that blessed time when 



144 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

their nascent generosity was so greatly encouraged by the 
charm and sweetness which a life full of recollection and 
prayer had for them ? Did not the light shine more bril 
liantly in their minds as their hearts were more deeply 
moved ? Did not the truth reveal itself to them more 
and more fully because they loved it better daily, and 
was it not amongst these noble ardours of devotion and 
generosity that their faith struck down such vigorous 
roots ? 



2. Failings and Imperfections of Devout Souls. 

166. But is there not another and a darker side to this 
picture of devout souls which we have just drawn ? Alas ! 
we must own that their feelings of generosity are not suffi 
ciently deep. The sensible operations of grace, of which 
we have spoken, have come into more direct contact with 
the surface of the soul. In its depths there remain defects 
which, although perhaps not very apparent, are real and 
at times dangerous. 

First with reference to beginners. 

Souls who have only just entered upon this life of piety 
cannot possess all virtues in a very high degree at the out 
set. The natural failings are more or less fettered by the 
sensible action of grace, but they are not really weakened 
and reduced (as will be the case later on) by a sustained 
practice of virtue and by trials borne in a right spirit. 

St. John of the Cross, in the first volume of his Obscure 
Night, has painted a very powerful, justly admired picture^ 
of these imperfections natural to beginners. We cannot 
do better than to summarize his teaching. The sketch 
will perhaps be found somewhat gloomy, but we must 
not forget that the Saint is speakng of those who are at 
the very threshold of the life of piety. Those who have 
sojourned longer in this third mansion may, without being 
emancipated from these imperfections, have nevertheless 
conquered them in part, and consequently have weakened 



BUDDING PIETY 145 

them. Neither must we take it for granted that every 
beginner possesses all the imperfections in question, nor 
that those from which they actually suffer have necessarily 
reached the degree which the Saint describes. He himself 
practically says as much. Amongst those who are given 
up to these blemishes, " some go on to very serious im 
perfections, and come to great harm thereby. Some, how 
ever, fall into them less than others, and some have to 
contend with little more than the first movements of them. 
But scarcely anyone can be found who, in his first fervours, 
did not fall into some of them " (chap, ii., 6). 

In his enumeration of these faults, the holy writer follows 
the order of the capital sins. 

167. Pride. " When beginners," says St. John of the 
Cross, " become aware of their own fervour and diligence 
in their spiritual works and devotional exercises, this pros 
perity of theirs gives rise to secret pride though holy 
things tend of their own nature to humility because of 
their imperfections, and the issue is that they conceive a 
certain satisfaction in the contemplation of their works 
and of themselves. . . . Their fervour and desire to do 
these and other works is frequently fed by Satan in order 
that they may grow in pride and presumption. He knows 
perfectly well that all their virtue and works are not only 
nothing worth, but rather tending to sin. Some of them 
go so far as to think none good* but themselves, and so at 
all times, both in word and deed, fall into condemnation 
and detraction of others. They see the mote in the eye 
of their brother, but not the beam which is in their own. 
They strain out the gnat in another man s cup, and swallow 
the camel in their own." 

The wish to advance, when it is inspired by the love of 
God, is certainly very praiseworthy ; but in some self- 
centred souls this desire comes from quite another cause. 
They hate to see themselves surpassed ; they do not wish 
to be inferior to anyone. If they hear any mention of a 
sublime act of virtue, they immediately aspire to accom- 

VOL. i. 10 



146 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

plish it, thinking nothing beyond their strength. Instead 
of acting with simplicity and sincerity, climbing up by 
degrees, according to the measure of grace received, they 
wish to rise of themselves, without the help of God or man, 
and so we see them rejecting encouragement, disdaining 
counsels, and trusting only to their own lights. 

Others complacently survey their own works. They 
count up their sacrifices, victories, difficulties overcome, 
and at the same time, like the Pharisee of the Gospel, they 
are passing very severe judgments upon those who are 
more meritorious in God s sight than themselves. 

" Some beginners, too/ says St. John of the Cross again, 
" make light of their faults, and at other times indulge in 
immoderate grief when they commit them. They thought 
themselves already saints, and so they become angry and 
impatient with themselves, which is another great imper 
fection. They also importune God to deliver them from 
their faults and imperfections, but it is for the comfort of 
living in peace, unmolested by them, and not for God." 

St. Francis of Sales says the same thing in his charming 
way. " Although reason will that, when we commit faults, 
we should be sorry and vexed about them, yet should we 
guard against a bitter and resentful displeasure, being fret 
ful and angry with ourselves. In which respect many 
make a great mistake, who, having been angry, are vexed 
at having been vexed, become annoyed at having been 
annoyed, and fret at having been fretful. These angers, 
fretfulnesses, and bitternesses that we feel against ourselves 
tend to pride, and originate in our self-love, which is 
troubled and anxious at finding itself imperfect." And 
the holy Bishop justly says that the existence of a natural 
vexation, rather than a true contrition, is clearly shown 
in that these hasty repentances are not in accordance with 
the gravity of our faults, but according to our own inclina 
tions. For example, he who loves chastity will reproach 
himself with unexampled bitterness at the least offence 
against that virtue, and will merely laugh at a grave slander 



BUDDING PIETY 147 

of which he has been guilty. On the other hand, he who 
hates slander will torment himself because of some slight 
whisperings, and will take no heed of a grievous sin against 
chastity; and so with others" (Devout Life, part iii., 
chap. ix.). 

168. Avarice. " Many a beginner," says St. John of 
the Cross, " also falls at times into great spiritual avarice* 
Scarcely anyone is contented with that measure of the 
spirit which God gives. They are very disconsolate and 
querulous because they do not find the comfort they desire 
in spiritual things. Many are never satisfied with- listening 
to spiritual counsels and precepts, with reading books 
which treat of their state, and they spend more time in 
this than in doing their duty, having no regard to that 
mortification and perfection of interior poverty of spirit 
to which they ought to apply themselves. Besides, they 
load themselves with images, rosaries, and crucifixes, 
curious and costly, now taking up one, then another, now 
changing them, and then resuming them again. At one 
time they will have them of a certain fashion, at another 
time of another, prizing one more than another because 
more curious or costly. Some may be seen with an Agnus 
Dei, and with relics and medals, like children with coral. 

" I condemn here that attachment and clinging of the 
heart to the form, number, and variety of these things, 
because in direct opposition to poverty of spirit, which 
looks only to the substance of devotion, which makes use, 
indeed, of these things, but only sufficiently for the end, 
and disdains that variety and curiosity ; for real devotion 
must spring out of the heart, and consider only the truth 
and substance which the objects in question represent " 
(Obscure Night, Book I., chap. iii.). 

169. Anger. " Many beginners, because of their in 
ordinate appetite for spiritual sweetness, generally fall into 
many imperfections in the matter of anger, for when 
spiritual things minister to them no more sweetness and 
delight, they naturally become peevish, and in that bitter- 

10 2 



148 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

ness of spirit prove a burden to themselves in all they do. 
Trifles make them angry, and they are at times intoler 
able to all about them. This happens generally after great 
sweetness in prayer, and so, when that sensible sweetness 
is past, their natural temper is soured and rendered morose. 
They are like a babe weaned from the breast, which he 
found so sweet. When this natural feeling of displeasure 
is not permitted to grow, there is no sin, but only imper 
fection, which will have to be purged away in the severity 
and aridities of the dark night. There are other spiritual 
persons, too, among these who fall into another kind of 
spiritual anger. They are angry with other people for 
their faults with a sort of unquiet zeal, and watch them ; 
they are occasionally moved to blame them, and even do 
so in anger, constituting themselves guardians of virtue. 
All this is contrary to spiritual meekness " (Obscure Night, 
Book I., chap. v.). 

But it is not only with regard to failings which they 
perceive in others that these Christians show themselves 
impatient and irritable. . It is the same when they have to 
bear some annoyance or contradiction. In the words of 
St. Francis of Sales, " it is a very harmful imperfection, 
from which few people are free. If it should happen that 
we have to blame our neighbour or complain about him 
(which should rarely happen to us), we never make an 
end of it, but go on over and over again, endlessly reiterat 
ing our complaints and grievances. And this is a mark 
of a resentful heart which is lacking in true charity " 
(Letter to Madame de Brulard, January, 1606). 

170. Spiritual Gluttony. " There is much to say of the 
fourth capital sin, which is spiritual gluttony, for there is 
scarcely one among beginners, however good his progress, 
who in the matter of this sin does not fall into some of the 
many imperfections to which beginners are liable, because 
of that sweetness which in the beginning they find in 
spiritual exercises. Many beginners, delighting in the 
sweetness and joy of their spiritual occupations, strive 



BUDDING PIETY 149 

after spiritual sweetness rather than after pure and true 
devotion, which is that which God regards and accepts in 
the whole course of the spiritual way. For this reason, 
over and above their imperfection in seeking after sweet 
ness in devotion, the spirit of gluttony, which has taken 
possession of them, forces them to overstep the limits of 
moderation, within which virtue is acquired and consists. 
For, allured by the delights they then experience, some of 
them kill themselves by penances, and others weaken them 
selves by fasting. They take upon themselves more than 
they can bear, without rule or advice ; they try to conceal 
their austerities from those whom they are bound to obey, 
and some even venture to practise them though commanded 
to abstain. . . . Many of these importune their spiritual 
directors to allow them to do their own will. They extort 
that permission as if by force, and if it be refused, they 
mope like children, and become discontented, and think 
they are not serving God whenever they are thwarted. 
These persons, clinging to sweetness and their own will, 
the moment they are contradicted and directed according 
to the will of God, become fretful, faint-hearted, and then 
fall away. They imagine that to please and satisfy them 
selves is to serve and please God. . . . These persons, 
when they communicate, strive with all their might for 
sensible sweetness, instead of worshipping in humility and 
praising God within themselves. . . . They conduct them- 
selves in the same way when they are praying, for they 
imagine that the whole business of prayer consists in 
sensible devotion, and this they strive to obtain with all 
their might, wearying out their brains and perplexing all 
the faculties of their souls. When they miss that sensible 
devotion they are cast down, thinking they have done 
nothing. This effort after sweetness destroys true devo 
tion and spirituality, which consists in perseverance in 
prayer, with patience and humility, mistrusting self, solely 
to please God. Therefore, when they once miss sweetness 
in prayer, or in any other act of religion, they feel a sort 



T 5 o THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

of repugnance to resume it, and sometimes cease from it 
altogether " (Obscure Night, chap. vi.). 

171. Envy and Spiritual Sloth. " Beginners are not free 
from many imperfections in the matter of the two vices, 
envy and spiritual sloth. Many of them are often vexed 
because of other men s goodness. They are sensibly 
afflicted when others outstrip them on the spiritual road, 
and will not endure to hear them praised. They become 
fretful over other men s virtues, and are sometimes unable 
to refrain from contradiction when they are commended ; 
they depreciate them as much as they can, and feel acutely 
because they themselves are not thought so well of, for 
they wish to be preferred above all others. ... As to 
spiritual sloth, beginners are wont to find their most 
spiritual occupations irksome, and avoid them as repug 
nant to their taste, for, being so given to sweetness in 
spiritual things, they loathe them when they find none. 
. . . Many of these will have it that God should will 
that which they will, and are afflicted when they must 
will that which He wills, reluctantly submitting their own 
to the Divine will. . . . They also find it wearisome to 
obey when they are commanded to do that which they 
like not, and because they walk in the way of consolation 
and spiritual sweetness they are too weak for the rough 
trials of perfection " (Obscure Night, chap. vii.). 

Many devout souls, as we have said above, do not display 
these serious failings which the holy writer has just depicted. 
They serve God with good-will, walk onwards in sweetness 
and tranquillity, and are a source of edification and 
good example. We recognize, however, that they are as 
yet only at the threshold of devotion, because the funda 
mental virtues humility, patience, and mortification are 
not deeply rooted within them. A little trial, a humilia 
tion, finds them all too much in subjection to the senses, 
and so they let themselves slide into many faults of inadver 
tence or of frailty. 



ARID PIETY 151 

CHAPTER III 

ARID PIETY 

I. The Diminution of Sensible Favours. 

172. FROM this teaching of St. John of the Cross it follows 
that Christian souls arrived at this point in the spiritual 
life are full of laudable dispositions, but are still far from 
perfection. Some Christians spend their whole life in this 
state. They are too changeable, too weak in the fight 
against self, to merit being raised higher* But whilst still 
maintaining themselves at this point, they experience a 
great alteration in their interior condition. Sensible con 
solations are gradually withdrawn from them ; they no 
longer receive in such great abundance those helps which 
proved so powerful a support to their weakness. They 
bear up, thanks to the stability of their faith, and also to 
the good habits that they have formed habits which are 
certainly insufficient for their advancement, but which 
suffice to prevent their relapse. 

And here, in passing, let us make the consoling reflection 
that these habits, whilst lessening their difficulties, do not 
diminish their merits. They are, in fact, accepted, ac 
quiesced in, loved. All the actions which proceed from 
them have been, and are still, desired ; they are thus free 
and meritorious. 

As we are speaking of aridity, it is necessary to define 
it. Some authors seem to confound dryness with a ten 
dency to distractions or with powerlessness. These con 
ditions of soul, are, however, distinct, although frequently 
present together. The soul, harassed by distractions, does 
not reflect on the truths of faith as much as it would wish, 
but sometimes it is able to enter into them and be moved 
by them. The soul in a state of impotence grieves at its 
inability to meditate or dwell upon consoling thoughts ; 



152 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

its reason seems paralysed ; it can vaguely call to mind 
certain truths, but cannot go to the bottom of them, 
incapable as it is of sustained thought. On the other 
hand, it may happen that a soul may be in a state of 
dry ness, and yet make these serious considerations. It 
represents to itself the mysteries of faith without any 
difficulty, but all these reflections, remembrances, and 
representations, which strengthen it, fail to move it. They 
may determine the will to act, but without causing any 
emotion in the sensible part of the soul. Dryness, then, is 
only the diminution or withdrawal of sensible sweetness. 

173. Whence comes this diminution of sensible graces ? 
Speaking above (No. 162) on the momentary withdrawal of 
spiritual consolations, we said that a frequent cause was 
the infidelity of Christian souls. Their cowardice, their 
neglect in responding to the calls of grace, bring it about 
that God no longer shows Himself so lavish of His favours. 
Their sins, their culpable attachments to the things of this 
world, which cause them a thousand turmoils and pre 
occupations, which lead to all kinds of desires, and engross 
all the thoughts of their hearts, prevent them from taking 
pleasure in the things of God. 

Many pious persons fall into these aridities, and are 
unable to recognize the real cause. They will not own 
that they correspond badly with the inspirations of grace, 
which urge them to a life of recollection and self-denial. 
They grieve the Holy Spirit by their faithlessness, and 
they are astonished because His presence becomes less 
sensible and His consolations fewer. Want of charity 
towards their neighbours is also a frequent cause of dry- 
ness. If they endeavoured to see all the supernatural 
qualities in their brethren, their faith, their avoidance of 
evil, their attachment to good, everything in them which 
pleases the heart of God, everything which, being the prin 
ciple of their merit, will live for ever, will be the cause of 
their sublime glory throughout eternity, God would be 
well pleased He would shed upon them some small por- 



ARID PIETY 153 

tion of His Divine joy. But they stop, on the contrary, 
to dwell upon those human defects which will one day 
pass away, leaving no traces behind. They regard their 
neighbour, not with the eyes of faith, but from an entirely 
human point of view, so that the least thing that goes 
wrong upsets and embitters them, makes them impatient, 
and so stifles the sweet sentiments of devotion which grace 
was striving to establish in their hearts. 

Besides, assueta vilescunt, the sensible faculties, which 
in that respect are greatly inferior to the spiritual, soon 
arrive at a condition in which they are no longer moved 
by objects which formerly impressed them deeply. It is 
a recognized fact that sensibility becomes blunted. It is 
natural, therefore, that the influence of sensible graces 
should not always be maintained at its same degree of 
intensity. 

Further, and independently of these causes, Providence 
may act directly to the same end ; indeed, it would not 
be good for the Christian soul to remain for an indefinite 
period in that condition of emotional sensibility in which 
it could never attain to true perfection. 

174. God, then, in order to purify it, removes these 
sensible consolations at intervals and for a time. The 
sweet emotions which it formerly experienced at the 
thought of religious truths, or in the practice of works of 
piety, then cease to be felt. The most striking con 
siderations leave the heart cold and seemingly unmoved. 
The understanding, moreover, dwells with difficulty upon 
these considerations, the imagination can scarcely call up 
mysteries which formerly impressed it vividly, or, at least, 
it cannot take a firm hold upon them. Aridity and an 
inexpressible and universal distaste have succeeded to the 
former consolations. To these may be added sorrows of 
heart, anxieties acutely felt, and fierce and prolonged 
temptations. 

We will ignore those cowardly souls in whom dryness 
has only been the result of faithlessness, and who, in order 



154 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

to win more powerful graces, must correct their failure and 
exhibit more generosity. We pass over in silence also, for 
the present, those strong souls who emerge from this ordeal 
more loving and more holy than before, and we will speak 
of those who, without being as blameworthy as the first, 
are not so courageous as the second. Their dryness seems 
to be willed by God for their advancement, but their lack 
of courage and constancy prevents the purifying action 
from producing its effect. 

2. Faults of those who fail to Profit by this Trial of 
Dryness. 

175. This is the moment, according to Father Libermann 
(Writings, p. 227), " when the great yea, the very great 
number leave the true path of prayer, owing to anxieties, dis 
couragement, false convictions, stubbornness, obstinacy, and 
the other defects into which they allow themselves to fall by 
impatience, self-love, and the desire to overcome these diffi 
culties. It is absolutely necessary for them to give up 
their own ideas, and submit to the trial with a great 
interior humility in the presence of God. At this moment 
they greatly need a good director, and still more perfect 
obedience. . . ." 

Souls " which have only spent a short time in the state of 
sensible delights, or have not been favoured with them abun 
dantly, usually bear this painful purgation of the senses 
badly, 1 and, generally speaking, they fall into the faults 

1 Is this the phenomenon which St. John of the Cross calls the 
night of the senses, and of which we shall have to speak more fully ? 
It is true that in these souls which we are here considering, there is 
not that seeking after God, that thirst for Him, which is the character 
istic element of the night of the senses, and a sign that this with 
drawal of sensible graces is a trial brought about by Providence, 
and not the result of relaxation. However, in both cases the 
principle may be the same, but with the imperfect either the 
remembrance of God was quickly effaced as soon as they yielded to 
bitterness and discouragement, or their want of submission and 



ARID PIETY 155 

referred to above, and end in one of these three conditions : 
(i) They pass into a state of scruples, uncertainty and a 
troubled conscience, from which they may escape with 
great difficulty, or not at all ; or, again, they do so only to 
sink completely into relaxation and dissipation. (2) Or 
they go astray, give up or become negligent in prayer, 
and begin to seek their pleasure and their gratification in 
creatures or in the satisfactions of self-love. (3) Or their 
relations with God become more and more difficult : their 
prayers are few and feeble, they remain divided between 
God and the creature, and never attain to real sanctity. 

" Many of them serve God, however, and really work for 
His glory. They perfect themselves in their own state, 
and acquire much merit ; but they always retain many 
failings and attachments to themselves, their own senses, 
and to creatures. These souls form all kinds of imperfect 
habits, and needs of created things. They are never com 
pletely generous ; they do not fly, but walk in the ways 
of God ; they do not perform their actions perfectly and 
purely. Nevertheless, they do many things for the love 
of God, although other loves are often mingled with it. It 
does not, however, cease to be good and true. 

" These souls are very full of activity, and sometimes 
devote themselves for a considerable period to purely 
natural occupations, which have no other use or purpose 
than that of their own pleasure. Necessary actions, such 
as eating, drinking, recreation, they perform very fre 
quently, at least through human motives and principles. 
They take delight in and enjoy the pleasures which these 
actions cause, even when they direct their intention in a 
supernatural manner. Sometimes they are extremely good 
and pleasing to God, and very busy in procuring His glory, 
despite these imperfections in their supernatural actions : in 
the celebration of Holy Mass, in confession, preaching, etc., 

generosity has prevented God from finishing His work, and making 
them experience the powerful attraction which He exercises over 
more detached and more loving hearts. 



156 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

in the case of priests, for example, where a crowd of imper 
fections and defects are always mingled. There are some, 
however, who are very careful in their preparation for these 
holy occupations and in trying to perform them as well as 
possible ; but all these imperfections and defects recur none 
the less. At other times, after very full and careful pre 
paration, they fall into grave faults in the exercise of these 
sacred functions sometimes before, sometimes afterwards. 

176. " All these defects come because the higher powers 
can only attain to God by the senses, because they are, so 
to speak, dependent upon the sensible faculties, and these 
latter can never attain to great perfection by themselves. 
Their sole perfection consists in remaining quiet, docile, 
submissive, and dependent upon the higher powers, and 
in never taking action except at their bidding. Perfec 
tion in an inferior consists in obeying, and not in com 
manding. The conduct of a soul thus given over to the 
lower faculties is blindness. It can never arrive at perfect 
prudence. Sometimes it is right, sometimes wrong. It 
therefore follows that the soul is ignorant of what God 
asks of it. It does not yet know its own disposition, and 
allows itself to be entangled in a host of snares and delusions. 
It is also passionate in its conduct. It constantly forms its 
opinion and acts from impulse and prejudice." 

The Venerable author explains this imperfect state by 
the predominance of the sensible faculties, which are 
always greedy for delights and anxious for satisfactions. 
The higher faculties the intellect and will not having 
been able to emancipate themselves sufficiently to enable 
them to act for themselves, as with the contemplative 
souls, remain weak and powerless, and it is practically 
impossible for the soul to practise real Christian self-denial. 

177. " The higher faculties," says Father Libermann, 
" have access to God only by way of the senses." 1 

1 These^words should not be taken too literally ; the writer s view 
is not so uncompromising : as is, moreover, easy to understand 
from the context. 



ARID PIETY i57 

So, before they can unite themselves with God in fervent 
prayer, or, again, before the will can form strong resolu 
tions, the senses must be favourably disposed as happens, 
for example, at certain functions and specially impressive 
religious ceremonies or else the imagination must be 
greatly affected and the heart touched. Then all is well ; 
but if the soul is in a state of dryness its generosity fails 
it. So, again, we may be capable of certain sacrifices, 
sometimes very painful ones, provided that they appeal 
to the imagination, and appear in a favourable light ; 
but if the sensible faculties are not touched, if the 
unassisted reason coldly considers the goodness of the act 
to be accomplished, then good-bye to energy and zeal ; 
we fall back inert and powerless. 

For the same reason these souls " enjoy an easy devotion 
when everything is as they wish, but it disappears when 
anything goes wrong. This is just the opposite of what 
happens to strong souls and those wholly given over to 
God. Such souls never feel more happiness, more devo 
tion, than when they are overwhelmed with troubles, and 
they seem unsatisfied when all goes well with them " 
(Ven. Fr. Libermann, Writings, p. 591). 

And it is the same with temptations. When sensible 
graces are abundant they overcome them easily, but if 
these are wanting they are very liable to be conquered 
themselves. These souls are really in sincere dispositions 
not to sin, and would even desire to avoid slight faults ; 
but as they are distracted by a crowd of purely natural 
preoccupations they are very often taken by surprise, 
and before they are really aware they give way to hasty 
motions of self-love, impatience, vanity, etc. The majority 
of their faults are of this kind. 

If they have time to reflect they do not so easily suc 
cumb. Nevertheless, if their own interest is at stake, or 
if their passions are aroused, they cannot make up their 
minds to sacrifice this interest or to overcome that passion. 
Caught on the horns of this dilemma (the choice between 



158 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

sinning and doing violence to their inclinations), and wish 
ing to avoid both alternatives, they try to delude them 
selves with poor excuses. At heart they do not succeed 
in deceiving themselves entirely, and they are quite 
conscious of their sin. But these faults, committed re 
luctantly and not deliberately, partake rather of frailty 
than malice. Cowardice, however, always enters into 
them. 

178. In the same way, and more easily still, they yield 
to desires which, as they know, are not inspired by super 
natural motives. But here, also, they try to shield them 
selves under specious pretexts. " When we want a thing/ 
says Father Lallemant, " we find a thousand reasons which 
give colour to our desire. We deceive ourselves when, 
having formed some plan for purely natural motives, we 
go on to search for some supernatural reason on the side 
of grace to support this design. I will go and call on 
Mr. So-and-so, because then I shall be able to advise him 
to make a retreat. Usually this because then springs from 
a wrong motive. It is an invention of self-love which is 
very clever at finding out such reasons." 

If Father Lallemant had lived in our time, perhaps he 
would have given another turn to this remark. He would 
have pointed to those cautious people who slip away before 
a disagreeable duty, and are so clever at finding specious 
excuses for their inaction. " Let us remain quiescent, and 
avoid this bother. Let us not get ourselves entangled in 
this matter, particularly as real inconveniences might 
result from our intervention." Alas ! what they really 
dread are by no means these inconveniences, for there are 
often greater ones involved in escaping from duty, but 
their dearly loved repose would be sacrificed. Perhaps, 
however, on reflection, these wiseacres decide to act, cost 
what it may, " for what would good people otherwise 
think ?" The desire for esteem and approval gets the 
better of their love of repose ; vanity is stronger than 
cowardice. This is what we meet with in Christians of 



ARID PIETY 159 

conviction, who think themselves, and indeed actually are, 
pious. 

179. We said that they did not really deceive themselves. 
There are many, however, who in the long run end by 
deluding themselves and falling into true defects, without 
being fully conscious of so doing. Where certain imper 
fections and slight failings are concerned they are then like 
those sinners whose hearts are hardened in respect of 
mortal sins : they scarcely even regard them as serious, 
and no longer feel any remorse for them. 

Some finish by taking for firmness what is really only a 
very natural desire to have their own way, and by regard 
ing as a good quality that inflexibility with which they 
support their caprices. Others give the name of dignity 
to what is simply self-love, or, again, a mere liking for 
comfort becomes a fine spirit of order, while a natural love 
of action or the satisfaction of their vanity is decorated 
with the name of zeal. 

Others call by the name of decision a disposition which 
is really only precipitation, and their prudence is that 
which St. Paul would term the wisdom of the flesh, sapientia 
carnis. Those who delight in severe and unjust judgments 
take this outcome of their self-esteem and self-love for the 
love of truth and zeal for good, but the bitterness which 
fills their conversation ought to show them that they are 
not inspired by the spirit of God. We may see persons of 
a truely sincere piety performing the duties of their state 
negligently because they are always engrossed with them 
selves, and they pass a considerable part of their lives in 
the care of their own persons, having ended by persuading 
themselves that their excessively delicate health necessi 
tates the most elaborate precautions. Others, again, are 
so over-attached to this world s goods that they push their 
anxiety about their business to excess, and then artlessly 
present themselves as models of good order and economy. 

How astounded will these poor deluded souls be on the 
day of their appearance before the supreme Judge, when, 



1 60 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

every veil being removed, the picture of their wrong-doings 
will be exposed to a light by which the smallest details 
will be revealed ! 

But all devout souls are not so blind to their faults. 
There are many who are more honest with themselves, 
who recognize, deplore, and would like to get rid of their 
weaknesses, but they only fight against them half-heartedly 
and inconstantly. " So they pass whole years, and often 
whole lives, in bargaining as to whether they will give 
themselves entirely to God. They cannot make up their 
minds to sacrifice everything ; they withhold many affec 
tions, designs, wishes, hopes, and aspirations, being un 
willing to despoil themselves in order to attain to that 
perfect nudity of spirit which is necessary for those 
who desire to be fully possessed by God " (Lallemant, 
2 principe, section i., chap, i., article 2). 

180. It would take too long to describe this mixture of 
good and evil, of good qualities and defects, which are to 
be found in the Christians of whom we are speaking. They 
have real virtues, a sincere and habitual desire to serve 
God ; they commit few, and even, for the most part, no 
serious, faults ; they never let a day pass without often 
thinking of God, If they are privileged to be priests, 
they will have zeal, regularity, and a laudable attachment 
to their sacred functions. All these good qualities are due 
to their ardent faith, a faith which has developed, as we 
have said, under the influence of the sensible graces which 
God has granted to them, and which is kept alive by 
their life of piety, by the practice of certain virtues, and 
by fidelity in prayer. 

But the list of their faults is long enough : inconstancy, 
self-love, a great love of comfort, and an often obstinate 
attachment to their own ideas and fancies. The same man 
who will spend himself freely because the exercise of zeal 
is agreeable to him, will not brook contradiction. He will 
try to set others down, especially those who put him in 
the shade on his own ground. He will throw doubts on 



ARID PIETY 161 

their knowledge, their prudence, and their tact ; he will 
impugn their intentions, all, doubtless, almost uncon 
sciously, but this does not exonerate him from blame. 

181. In all Christians of the third degree self-abnegation 
is not non-existent, but incomplete. They do not seem 
quite to understand the value of perfect renunciation ; they 
do not aspire to it. From this it follows that their virtues 
and imperfections not only succeed one another, but fre 
quently combine in the accomplishment of one and the 
same work. Thus, in the exercise of zeal, they mingle 
much purely natural activity with their faith ; they lean 
heavily upon human means, and have not that perfect 
trust in God which gives such tranquil energy and complete 
self-control to perfect souls. 

In the edifice which each of us is building for eternity 
there are, says the Apostle, materials of very different 
value. All will pass through the fire ; gold, silver, and 
precious stones will be refined in it, while the wood, hay, 
and stubble will be consumed. Those of whom we speak 
doubtless employ valuable materials in their daily work, 
but they also allow many worthless elements to enter in, 
and these will become so much fuel for the purifying fire. 

Whilst awaiting " the day of the Lord, in which the 
work of every one shall appear as it is " (uniuscujusque 
opus manifestum erit, dies enim Domini declarabit) , it is 
not easy for the human eye to estimate the value of the 
edifice. Sometimes a layer of precious metals conceals less 
valuable materials ; sometimes, on the other hand, the gold 
and silver are hidden under a common exterior. In some 
the good qualities, in others the failings, are visible at first 
sight. All hasty judgments run a great risk of being 
erroneous. 

182. However, we may declare, without fear of mistake, 
that the more or less visible failings which we have attri 
buted to Christians of this class are very prejudicial to 
their merits, and if they are obliged by their state of life 
to work for the salvation and sanctification of others 

VOL. I. II 



162 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

many priests and religious must be classed in this third 
mansion such numerous imperfections are very injurious 
to their work. Too much occupied with themselves, these 
evangelical workers " do nothing simply for God ; they 
seek their own will in all things, and always secretly mingle 
their own interest with the glory of God in their best 
undertakings." 

See how vexed and tempted to discouragement they 
become when their works have not all the success that 
they desire ! If they were so anxious about succeeding, it 
was, indeed, for the glory of God, but also, as their vexa 
tion proves, for their own personal satisfaction. 

So long as they are not further advanced in renunciation, 
their works and their activity will perhaps appear to be 
very efficacious, they themselves not being the last to 
think so ; but in reality their zeal, without being actually 
barren, will not produce much fruit. 

183. St. Teresa describes, as we have done, the condi 
tion of souls in the third mansion, and points out the 
mixture of piety and imperfection to be found in them. 

" I have known some, in fact I may say, a number of 
souls who have arrived at this state, and for many years 
lived apparently a regular and well-ordered life, both of 
body and mind. It would seem that they must have 
gained the mastery over this world, or, at least, be ex 
tremely detached from it ; yet they become so disturbed 
and disheartened when His Majesty sends very moderate 
trials as not only to astonish, but to make me anxious 
about them. . . . Something of the same sort happens 
if such people meet with contempt or want of due respect. 
God often gives tljem grace to bear it well, for, as He loves 
to see virtue upheld in public, He will not have it con 
demned in those who practise it, or else because these 
persons have served Him faithfully, and He Who is our 
supreme Good is exceedingly good to us all. Nevertheless, 
these persons are disturbed, and cannot overcome or get 
rid of the feeling for some time. Alas ! have they not 



ARID PIETY 163 

long meditated on the pains our Lord endured, on how 
good it is to suffer, and have even longed to do so ? They 
wish every one were as good as they are, and God grant 
they do not think other people are to blame for their 
troubles, and attribute merit to themselves !" 1 

The Saint gives other examples of imperfections which 
are met with in this third mansion an attachment more 
or less avowed to the goods of this world, eagerness to 
increase them, and that excessive fear of doing too much, 
of exceeding the bounds of prudence, of endangering rest 
or health in the service of the Master, etc. Such are the 
weaknesses which St. Teresa rightly censures. They are 
found, indeed, in those sincerely good souls who, more 
over, are quite conscious of their own merit, but who are 
still far from perfection. 

3. Faults proceeding from the Temperament. 

184. In all the souls of which we have hitherto spoken 
the faults of temperament are very apparent. They are 
especially noticeable in the first degrees of virtue ; they 
become less grievous, but do not disappear, during the 
period of sensible consolation ; then, if the soul ceases to 
rise in virtue, they again become more marked. Tempera 
ment is really a natural disposition proceeding from our 
organism. So long as the spiritual powers of the soul are 
not strong enough to resist the impulses of the lower 
faculties, the temperament makes itself actively felt. 

Before the Fall all the elements of the human body were 
in a state of perfect equilibrium, no one had a harmful pre 
ponderance over another ; since that sin this beautiful 
harmony has disappeared. Doubtless in many persons 
the different principles of activity moderation, impres 
sionability, and firmness are happily balanced, but in 
many others one of [the elements has a [very powerful 
and the rest a very weak action. The organism is then 

1 Third Mansion, chap. ii. 

II 2 



164 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

badly harmonized, and exerts an unsatisfactory influence 
over the soul. 

The sanguine, lymphatic, nervous, and bilious tempera 
ments are those usually recognized. Whether or no it is 
right to attribute the characters which we are going to 
describe to the predominance of the elements signified by 
these words we shall not discuss. This question it is not 
in our power to decide, but the existence of the characters 
themselves cannot be denied, and the reader will allow us 
to connect them with the influence of these different ele 
ments, if only because this hypothesis is generally ad 
mitted. 

185. There are persons whose natural dispositions are 
ardent, but thoughtless. They are active, but inconstant, 
amiable and engaging when nothing puts them out, but 
hasty and impatient in face of obstacles. However, their 
ill-humour is short-lived, and does not degenerate into 
rancour. They are optimistic ; but they are imprudent, 
because everything appears roseate to them, and they do 
not take sufficient time for reflection. When any business 
is submitted to them they think to settle it in three words. 
They are neither effeminate nor lazy, do not lack initia 
tive, set to work with all their might, but they easily become 
suspicious and jealous when others succeed better than 
themselves. They are of a pleasant disposition, are often 
gay and impulsive, prompt at repartee, but changeable, 
meddlesome, and rash. When the blood is active and hot, 
and other elements do not come to moderate its action, it 
is thought to be the source of these qualities and defects, 
and so this temperament is called the sanguine tempera 
ment. 

186. Very different are the defects associated with the 
lymphatic temperament slowness, listlessness, and effemi 
nacy. " I cannot ; it is too hard: it is impossible !" Such 
is the complaint which frequently escapes the lips of a 
lymphatic person. His blood seems frozen in his veins, 
and nothing can warm it. His indolence preserves him 



ARID PIETY 165 

from great crimes, but so long as it does not give place to 
a supernatural energy, he is incapable of true virtue. When 
the element which produces this apathy exists only in a 
small degree, it acts as a moderator to the hastiness of the 
sanguine temperament. It allows the soul time for reflec 
tion and the formation of its plans ; but if it predominates 
it breeds idleness and inactivity. 

187. Still more deplorable are the defects of the nervous 
temperament. We have depicted the fickleness of the san 
guine ; the inconstancy of the nervous is still more trouble 
some. The most insignificant causes produce strong im 
pressions upon them, and these frequently have no real 
basis, but are purely imaginary. If the imagination does 
not entirely create the phantoms which disturb the nervous, 
plunge them into deep gloom, or give rise to chimerical 
hopes, at least it exaggerates the smallest facts, and leads 
them to draw the most unexpected conclusions. 

The imagination dominates all these nervous people. 
This faculty is at once changeable and tenacious. Some 
times, indeed, it passes in a moment and without any 
reason from one conviction to another which is quite oppo 
site ; sometimes, also, it attaches itself without any cause 
to a groundless fancy. It feeds upon it, returns to it cease 
lessly, and derives from it feelings of joy or sadness, love 
or hatred, which have no foundation in fact. Reason has 
very little hold upon the nervous, so if they give way to 
their tendencies, if they neglect the sole means of correcting 
themselves, which is to fight against their nerves and, their 
impressions with a firm and energetic will, they become more 
and more fantastical, capricious, and eccentric. 

However, the entire absence of nervosity would not be 
a good quality. He who, whilst knowing always how to 
control and guide himself by wise and carefully considered 
motives, has strong feelings as to both good and evil, will 
be able to communicate to others his good and salutary 
impressions. We must be moved ourselves in order to 
move others. 



166 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

" 188. A cold, energetic, resolute, and tenacious 1 character 
is usually attributed to persons of a bilious temperament. 
The good qualities to which this temperament predisposes 
are most valuable. On the other hand, when it is undiluted 
it readily engenders hardness, egotism, love of authority, 
and a desire to rule. It also leads easily to harsh and 
unjust judgments, criticisms, and disparagements. People 
of a bilious temperament are often pessimistic. In their 
dealings with their neighbours they show themselves 
neither frank nor amiable. 

189. The qualities and defects proceeding from the tem 
perament are seldom so pronounced as in the cases painted 
above, because the different elements referred to combine 
and modify each other, and also because education and 
the lessons of experience contribute to the correction of 
these natural failings. Also, the mental gifts the intelli 
gence and a sound judgment often mitigate the serious 
ness of these faults. But conflicts bravely sustained for 
the love of God, and frequent victories won, will do most 
to weaken their violence. 

Cowardly and self-opinionated Christians struggle but 
half-heartedly against their temperaments. They fancy 
that they have found an excuse for their indolence when 
they have said : " It is not my fault that I have such and 
such a failing. If I am constitutionally violent, apathetic, 
or foolishly impressionable, I am not responsible. I did 
not choose my own temperament." The generous soul 
does not resort to these profitless excuses. It rights, and 
if it does not always succeed in making them disappear 
entirely, it at least eradicates to some extent the faults of 
its natural disposition. When by its fidelity it has climbed 
the steps of perfection, and obtained the important graces 

1 Energy and tenacity may proceed from the will (as we shall 
show later on), and, consequently, from the character of the soul 
and not that of the organism. Nevertheless, we think that it is 
true, as generally believed, that certain temperaments can take a 
share on their own account in producing these dispositions. 



HOW A SOUL MAY FALL FROM PIETY 167 

of light and strength which God grants to fervent and 
perfect souls, it will see its native good qualities increase 
and become supernaturalized, and its defects grow much 
less and become almost imperceptible. 



CHAPTER IV 

HOW A SOUL MAY FALL FROM THIS STATE OF PIETY 

190. THOSE who have not been long in this degree of the 
spiritual life can easily fall back into less perfect disposi 
tions, while those who have sojourned there for a fairly long 
period have acquired a certain stability, and, if they de 
cline at all, do so imperceptibly. But even for these souls 
falls, although rare, are not unexampled. A dangerous 
occasion which they were not willing to forego, a disordered 
affection for a creature, numerous faults more and more 
consented to, a failing such as pride, sensuality, or avarice 
not combated, a wilful and persistent dissipation, pro 
longed neglect of devotional exercises these are the 
causes which bring about the deterioration of souls, and 
ultimately lead to the most lamentable errors. 

Qui spernit modica paulatim decidet He that contemneth 
small things, shall fall by little and little (Ecclus. xix. i). 
Such a soul, formerly devout, frequently gives way to sin 
in some slight matter ; it makes light of its faults. In other 
words, it does not conceive sorrow for them. It does not 
seek to make reparation for them. It excuses itself, and 
strives to lessen them in its own eyes by poor excuses. 
So long as it recognized its faults humbly, and repented of 
them, its conscience remained sensitive, and the will, 
despite its weakness, continued to be sincerely attached 
to good. But later, having desired to reject the light, it 
has succeeded only too well in clothing itself with dark 
ness. Then the understanding is less enlightened, and at 
the same time the will turns away from good, and attaches 



168 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

itself to what is to be condemned. Enlightened as to cer 
tain duties which it continues to fulfil faithfully, it no 
longer understands the exigencies and delicacies of the 
virtues that it neglects. But if the evil extends, if the 
right actions become rare, and wilful falls multiply, then 
the good dispositions grow weak and the bad develop. 
Such is the story of all those who descend from the degrees 
of perfection to which they were raised. Their collapse is 
not due to frailty, but to a culpable blindness of the spirit 
and the will s attachment to sin. 

Moreover, as we have already said (No. 53), it is harder 
for a fallen soul to regain its lost good dispositions than 
for those who have not abused the graces that they have 
received. In order to arrive afresh at the degree of per 
fection from which it has fallen, the soul must strive even 
more painfully than at the time of its first ascent, and the 
more painfully again according to the extent of its fall. 
Let it not think that it will recover what it has cast aside 
except by penance ; let it also understand that generous 
sacrifices are necessary in order to break its will and render 
it supple under the action of grace. 



RECOLLECTION 169 



PART IL THE DIRECTION OF DEVOUT 
SOULS 

CHAPTER I 

RECOLLECTION 

191. As soon as a soul seems to be taking its first steps in the 
way of true piety, as soon as it is plain that it is under the 
influence of sensible favours, the first advice which should 
be given to it is to keep itself recollected. We have said 
that the inward operations of grace will be much more 
powerful if it holds aloof from the clamour of the world, 
and from everything which can distract. The voice of the 
Lord is not heard amidst the tumult non in commotione 
Dominus. It is in the solitude that He speaks to the heart 
of man ducam earn in solitudinem et loquar ad cor ejus. 
And this is why silence and repose are indispensable to 
advancement in piety in silentio et quiete proficit anima 
devota (Imitatio, i. 20). 

Ascetic authors are all very emphatic upon this point. 
One of the first counsels which St. Vincent Ferrer gives in 
his Treatise on the Spiritual Life to those who wish to 
devote themselves seriously to the service of God is this : 
u You must set manfully to the work of curbing your 
tongue, so that this member, which ought to speak of useful 
things, may abstain from all useless and frivolous utter 
ances." 

According to a comparison of Father Rodriguez (Chris 
tian Perfection, part ii., treatise ii., chap, v.), it is before 
all things essential to put a lock on a coffer if we wish to 
safeguard the treasures that it contains. The same author, 
quoting these words of Holy Scripture, "The vessel that 
hath no cover nor binding over it shall be unclean " (Num. 
xix. 15), says again : " Just as this vessel, being uncovered, 
is exposed to all kinds of uncleanness, and to be filled with 



1 70 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

dust and filth, so when the mouth is always open to speak 
the soul is soon filled with imperfections and sins." 

The text of St. James, so often quoted, is very striking : 
" If any man think himself to be religious, not bridling his 
tongue, but deceiving his own heart, this man s religion is 
vain " (Jas. i. 26). And, indeed, how can anyone prac 
tise acts of the love of God when he is so entirely taken up 
with frivolous cares that he does not even turn his thoughts 
towards Divine things ? So nothing exposes us to sin as 
much as dissipation in multiloquio non deerit peccatum. 
While, on the other hand, " He that keepeth his mouth, 
keepeth his soul " (Prov. xiii. 3). 

192. It is a remarkable fact that in the lives of the 
Saints their first years of fervour were passed in solitude. 
St. Paul, newly converted, passes three years in the deserts 
of Arabia before giving himself up to the work of his 
Apostolate. St. Augustine at Tagaste, St. Benedict at 
Subiaco, St. Ignatius at Manresa, prepared by a life of 
retirement, silence, and prayer for the great works which 
they were to accomplish later. The majority of apostolic 
men St. Vincent Ferrer, St. Francis Xavier, and many 
others first fitted themselves for the perfect life in the 
solitude of the novitiate and the recollection of the cloister 
before accomplishing their sublime mission. 

In well observed silence lies the great strength of religious 
communities and monastic houses ; but Christian souls 
living in the world may, and if they aspire after true piety 
must, in a certain measure also resort to this powerful 
means to perfection. 

193. Recollection consists in two things : in closing the 
heart as far as possible to the cares and clamour of the 
earth, and in opening it on the side of heaven ; in avoiding 
distraction, and living in the exercise of the presence of 
God. To this end a real good-will is needed and is suffi 
cient. May not every one be advised to love being alone 
with God, avoiding useless visits, frivolous reading, and 
long and trifling conversations ? Without living like a 



RECOLLECTION 171 

hermit, it is usually possible to secure hours for rest and 
quiet. Whatever the position we occupy, if there are days 
when we really do not belong to ourselves, there are others 
when we enjoy a considerable liberty. Even those who 
are most overwhelmed with work can, if they know how 
to make the most of their time, find precious moments of 
calm and quiet. 1 A certain amount of decision is doubtless 
necessary in order to resist the importunate solicitations 
and possible criticisms of frivolous people who understand 
neither the value of time nor the advantage of a life retired 
from the world ; but these are obstacles which a true dis 
ciple of the Gospel ought to be able to overcome. He who 
wishes to be the servant of Jesus Christ must not make 
himself the slave of the world. 

If, as Our Lord teaches us, we must avoid those words 
of which we shall have to give an account on the Day of 
Judgment, all the more ought we to shun occasions of dissi 
pation and worldly entertainments. He who aspires to 
piety must abstain from them at least, when good manners 
or lawful requirements do not make them a necessity. 

With regard to engrossing occupations, they may really 
be a necessity of our condition, and then God, Who imposes 
them, gives to souls of a good-will the grace of remaining 
recollected in the midst of the turmoil. But if we have 
multiplied our own occupations, if, urged on by a too natural 
activity, we have imposed on ourselves works and distrac 
tions which could be curtailed without inconvenience, then 
it is a matter of remembering the words of St. Bernard to 
Pope Eugenius III. Maledicta occupatio qua te retrahit 
a Deo (Cursed be the work that keeps thee from God) 
and of suppressing whatever is not absolutely necessary. 

Freed, then, as far as circumstances will allow, from the 

1 " If you can tear yourself away from unnecessary talk and 
useless visits," says the Imitation, " if you shut your ears to the 
vain clamour of the world, you will find sufficient time to make 
holy meditations " (Book I., chap, xx., Of the Love of Solitude and 
Silence] . 



172 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

vairTclamour and bewildering tumult of the world, we may 
reserve for ourselves hours of recollection which shall be 
dedicated to a self-imposed silence, both exterior and in 
terior exterior in not speaking at all except when obliged 
to do so, interior by banishing from our hearts cares, use 
less thoughts, and daydreams in a word, all those crea 
tions of the imagination which are often more importunate 
than the most distracting conversations. It is quite evi 
dent, however, that we cannot perpetually bind ourselves 
down to this silence, and that when social duties require 
us to break it we must appear amiable and cheerful ; but 
all the same, we must sometimes know how to leave the 
world in order to find God. 

194. And how should we occupy our flighty and wander 
ing minds during these moments of peace and rest ? We 
should occupy them with serious and devout thoughts, and 
in sweet and pious meditations. Listen to St. Francis of 
Sales upon this subject : " It is here, dear Philothea, that I 
most affectionately require you to follow my advice, for 
in this lies one of the surest means towards your spiritual 
advancement. 

" As frequently as you can, during the course of the day, 
recall yourself into the presence of God in one of the four 
ways I have shown you. 1 Consider what God is doing, 
and what you yourself are doing. You will see His eyes 
turned towards you, and fixed perpetually upon you with 
an incomparable love. Then say : O God, why do I not 
always behold Thee, even as Thou always beholdest me ? 
Why do I think so seldom of Thee, when Thou, my Lord, 
dost think so often of me ? Where are we, O my soul ? 
Our true rest is in God, and where do we find ourselves ? 

" Just as the birds have nests in the trees to which they 
can retire, and the stags have their thickets and strongholds 
wherein to conceal themselves and lie hidden, enjoying the 
freshness of the shade in summer, so our hearts, Philothea, 
must daily seek out and choose some place, either on the 
1 See above, On Prayer (No. 130). 



RECOLLECTION 173 

hill of Calvary or in the Wounds of our dear Lord, or some 
other spot, there to lay down our burdens and find an inner 
refreshment amidst the cares of the world, fleeing thereto 
as to a strong tower, that we may be defended against 
temptations. 

" Remember, then, Philothea, to retreat frequently into 
the solitude of your own heart, even whilst bodily you are 
occupied in conversations and business ; and this mental 
solitude cannot in any way be hindered by the multitude 
of those around you, for they are not around your heart, 
but around your body, if only your heart remains alone in 
the single presence of God. That is how King David exer 
cised himself among his many occupations, as his Psalms 
abundantly prove for instance, when he said : My God, 
Thou art ever before me. The Lord is ever on my right 
hand. To Thee, O Lord, have I lifted up mine eyes. O 
Thou that dwellest in the heavens, mine eyes are ever 
looking to the Lord. 

" And our conversations are not usually of such im 
portance that we cannot from time to time recall our 
hearts in order to retire into this Divine solitude " (Devout 
Life, ii. 12). 

195. In the following chapter the Saint completes his 
advice, and shows how the exercise of the presence of God 
must be rather a matter of affection than of reason, and 
that the heart must have a greater share in it than the 
intellect. 

" Aspire after God frequently, Philothea, by means of 
short but ardent acts of your heart. Admire His beauty, 
invoke His assistance, cast yourself in spirit at the foot of 
the cross, adore His goodness, inquire of Him often about 
your salvation, a thousand times in the day give Him 
your soul, fix your inward eyes upon His sweetness, stretch 
out your hand to Him, as a little child to his father, that 
He may lead you. Set Him like a bouquet of fragrant 
herbs upon your breast, implant Him like a standard in 
your soul, and make a thousand movements of your heart, 



i 7 4 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

to the end that you may attain to the love of God, and a 
passionate and tender affection for His Divine Spouse. 

" Thus the great St. Augustine made those ejaculatory 
prayers which he so assiduously counsels to the devout 
Lady Proba. Philothea, the spirit dwelling thus in a 
familiar intercourse with its God, will permeate itself with 
the perfume of His perfections. And this exercise is by 
no means difficult, for it may be interwoven with all our 
business and occupations without hindering them in the 
least, more especially as in this spiritual retreat, in these 
interior affections, we make only short digressions which 
in no way interfere with, but rather assist us in, our external 
pursuits. The pilgrim who halts a while and takes a little 
wine to gladden his heart and refresh his mouth is not 
thereby interrupting his journey ; he rather assimilates 
strength in order to accomplish it more speedily and easily, 
resting only in order to go forward the better." 

Oh, how blessed are those Christians who can thus 
remain recollected in a loving and uninterrupted union 
with God ! They indeed taste how good the Lord is, and 
how gracious His conversation. Spiritual consolations 
flood their souls, and their hearts, ravished by all the 
beauties that they behold in the Well-Beloved, bind them 
selves to Him by strong and almost indissoluble bonds. 

196. When souls who are still in the first effervescence of 
their new-born devotion feel these sensible consolations 
strongly, it is comparatively easy to obtain recollection 
from them. They willingly make efforts, and watch over 
themselves in order to preserve this peace which is such a 
source of sweetness for them. With regard to those who 
have been long in the illuminative life, and who maintain 
themselves therein by reason of the faith which they have 
acquired, the good habits which they have formed, and 
the virtues which they practise, rather than the spiritual 
delights with which their souls are no longer favoured as 
of old these souls have not the same attraction forjrecol- 
lection. They readily give themselves up to outside things ; 



RECOLLECTION 175 

they yield themselves entirely to business, to the neglect 
of the exercise of God s presence. They think of Him, 
however, from time to time, only much less frequently, 
and especially less lovingly, than they should do. If they 
continue in this state, all serious progress becomes im 
possible. We must try, therefore, to bring them back to 
a life of greater recollection. " Would you not have every 
thing to gain," we should say to them, " by living further 
removed from all these disturbances and distracting cares ? 
Some, I admit, are necessary and inevitable, but that is 
only another reason why you should avoid those which 
can be avoided ; and would you really dare to say that 
you conscientiously cut off everything which is of a nature 
to distract you ? Are you not too much given over to 
external affairs, too eager for news ? And, on the other 
hand, do you not neglect, under vain pretexts, those exer 
cises which would favour recollection, cutting short your 
devotional reading too readily, for instance, when you 
would not deprive yourself of one line of your newspaper, 
or sacrifice a quarter of an hour s useless conversa 
tion ?" 

When these Christians are able to forget the clamour 
of the world entirely when, for instance, they make a 
serious retreat under solitary and peaceful conditions 
they immediately feel its salutary effects. Their deep 
faith comes to life again ; they hear the voice of God, and 
the soul is filled with good thoughts and holy resolutions. 
This is a clear proof that if they would be careful to main 
tain themselves in habitual dispositions of recollection, 
controlling the imagination, and living more alone with 
God, they would make a rapid progress in fervour. 

197. Rule of Life. In the first part of this work we have 
already said that one of the best remedies for dissipation 
is the faithful observance of a rule of life. For well-dis 
posed souls of this third degree a more defined and detaited 
rule is required than that which is suitable for mere be 
ginners. This rule of life is not in excess of what may 



176 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

rightly be expected of them, and it will be more in keeping 
with their needs. 

The pious practices will be these : Besides the obligatory 
prayers, the daily recitation of five mysteries of the Rosary, 
which should be accompanied by the consideration or 
remembrance of the mysteries in question. Then mental 
prayer, performed while at work, if it cannot otherwise be 
managed, and ejaculatory prayer. Finally, examination 
of conscience, and the particular examination of the pre 
dominant failing. 

If their occupations will allow of some devotional reading, 
especially the life of some Saint, even when these readings 
only last for a few minutes, it must be exacted. Nothing 
contributes more powerfully to the maintenance of a soul 
in recollection and fervour than spiritual reading. The 
imagination receives an excellent impression, the heart is 
filled with right feelings, which may endure, and thus 
exercise a happy influence over the whole conduct of 
life. In this way the unwelcome impressions caused by 
temporal cares will be counteracted and partly effaced ; 
in this way, too, the seed of the Divine Word will not be 
choked by the thorns that is, by the absorbing business 
and distracting clamour of the world. 

There are still two exercises of very great utility, but 
which it is not always possible to exact even from devout 
souls. These are daily assistance at Mass, and the visit 
to the Blessed Sacrament. The principle by which we 
may judge whether these should be imposed or not is this : 
What are the motives which would lead to their omission ? 
Is it a motive approved by God such, for example, as 
the duties of the mother of a family, kept away by the 
care of her children or is it, on the contrary, one inspired 
by purely human considerations, such as reluctance to be 
inconvenienced, or the fear of some slight persecution ? In 
the first it would be a mistake to impose a devotional 
practice which would prevent the performance of more 
urgent duties ; in the second it would be a misfortune to 



RECOLLECTION 177 

deprive these souls of precious spiritual helps for such 
frivolous reasons. 

198. With regard to the practice of virtues and the duties 
of our state, it is expedient that the rule should contain 
clear and practical directions concerning these important 
points. 

The duties of our state are, in fact, an indication of 
God s particular designs for each one of His children. A 
captain posts his soldiers in different positions, and assigns 
a special function to each. He says to the one, " Go, and 
he goeth " (Vade, et vadit) ; to another, " Do this, and he 
doeth it " (Fac hoc, et facit) ; and the orderliness of the 
whole depends upon the execution of these different com 
mands. So it is with the government of the world. The 
Creator has assigned a special task to each one of us. His 
Providence, which directs events, has placed us in the spot 
which is suitable for us, and where our appointed mission 
is to be found. The duty of our state this is our work. 
When we perform it faithfully we carry out the Divine 
will, we accomplish the Divine command. Fathers and 
mothers of a family, employers and employed, masters and 
servants, priests and laymen, soldiers and magistrates all 
must regard it as an honour and a consolation to do the 
work required of them by God. All must be resolved to 
obey Him, and to work for His glory. This is what makes 
the greatness, the importance, of the duty of our state, 
and renders the commonest occupations meritorious and 
holy. As the value of our actions depends upon the 
motive which inspires them, it will be necessary to insist 
upon purity of intention in the Rule Deus intuetur cor 
(God regardeth the heart). Men, who only see the out 
side, appraise the merit by the success of any work. God, 
on the other hand, takes into consideration the intentions 
which cause its accomplishment. The most ordinary action 
performed through pure love has much greater value in 
His eyes than the most brilliant achievement which pro 
ceeds from a love which is imperfect or mingled with 

VOL. i. 12 



1 78 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

natural and interested motives. Our work, therefore, 
would be but half done were we to urge faithfulness to the 
duties of the state in the Rule without laying stress upon 
the means by which this fidelity becomes meritorious. The 
frequentation of the Sacraments, the proper dispositions 
to be brought to them, the way in which the monthly 
retreats should be made, absolute fidelity to the annual 
retreat these, again, are the fundamental principles of a 
good Rule. 

199. Once determined, the Rule must be steadfastly 
observed, but without constraint. It must not be in 
fringed capriciously, or from any human motive, nor must 
it be followed at the expense of other duties. It is certainly 
extremely useful thus to hold our liberty captive under 
the yoke of a Rule Qui regulce vivit, Deo vivit. 1 Recollec 
tion is thereby favoured or, rather, assured. The constant 
mortification of the will, which is thus thwarted in its 
independence and constrained to yield to the Divine will, 
a much more frequent recourse to God, such are the most 
precious fruits of a Rule well observed, and thus it is that 
it imprints a truly Christian stamp upon the whole life. 
It is by reason of these inexpressible advantages that cer 
tain directors require their penitents to render a daily 
account of the way in which their Rule is kept. A printed 
table, divided into columns, allows them to note down 
each evening the exactitude and also the perfection with 
which they have performed their different exercises. This 
method ensures regularity, maintains the soul in habits of 
piety, and forms a very safe preservative against the slack 
ness which contact with the world so soon engenders. 

1 " He who lives for his Rule lives for God " (St. Gregory of 

Nyssa) . 



RENUNCIATION 179 

CHAPTER II 

RENUNCIATION 

i. Mortification. 

200. " MORTIFICATION and humility must go hand in 
hand ; they are two sisters who must not be separated. . . . 
O sovereign virtues, mistresses of all creatures, queens of 
the world, you who deliver from all the snares and the 
traps of the devil, you who are so beloved of our Lord 
Jesus Christ ! He who possesses you may well set himself 
in battle array, and fight against the combined forces of 
hell. Let him fear no man, for the kingdom of heaven 
belongs to him, and what could he fear who counts the 
loss of all here below as naught, and who, when he has 
lost all, thinks that he has lost nothing ? One thing alone 
does he fear to displease his God ; so he asks from Him 
to be strengthened in these two virtues, and not to lose 
them by his own fault. 

" But how foolish am I to undertake to praise humility 
and mortification when the King of Glory has Himself 
praised them so highly, and consecrated them by His own 
sufferings ! Oh, my daughters, strive with their aid to 
leave the land of Egypt, for if you acquire them, you will 
find in them the heavenly manna which will impart a 
pleasant flavour to all things. Everything which appears 
most bitter to the people of this world (contempt, humilia 
tions, privations, sufferings) will seem to you to be full of 
sweetness " (Way of Perfection, chaps, x., xi.). 

So speaks St. Teresa, and all the Saints with her. To 
attain to piety it was necessary to do some violence to 
oneself, to struggle against self, to conquer it in many 
ways, perhaps even to sustain grievous conflicts. Failing 
these more or less painful efforts, we should never have 
come to taste the delights which God reserves for generous 
souls ; but in order to keep ourselves from backsliding, to 

12 2 



i8o THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

obtain afresh those sweets of piety which are so consoling, 
we must needs continue this warfare with self, and apply 
ourselves earnestly to mortification. 

201. If we slacken, especially at the outset of the spiritual 
life, difficulties will quickly increase. To begin with, the 
further we go, the more we dread suffering. " He who does 
not swallow his repugnances," St. Francis of Sales used to 
say, " becomes more and more fastidious." We grow less 
eager in the strife. Meanwhile, old desires make themselves 
felt again, and the more they are listened to, the more 
imperious they become, and the sacrifices which God s ser 
vice demands will therefore be found increasingly difficult. 

On the other hand, graces will become less abundant. 
The soul, tormented by carnal instincts and appetites, 
filled with natural longings, preoccupations, and temporal 
cares, dominated by self-love, by the thirst for prosperity, 
or attachment to comfort, consumes the greater part of 
its days in vain imaginings, and no longer has the same 
strength by which it should mount up to God, or the same 
aptitude for receiving His communications and His graces. 
It has grown drowsy and incapable of any free and rapid 
progress on the spiritual road. 

Attendite vobis, said Jesus to His disciples, ne forte graven- 
tur corda vestra in crapula et ebrietate et curis hujus vita 
Take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be 
overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares 
of this life (Luke xxi. 34). 

Thus absorbed by worldly cares, not only are the avenues 
of the spirit all closed in advance against the Divine in 
spiration, but when it admits them they no longer find it 
docile as before. He who habitually seeks his own gratifi 
cation in everything, and always gives way to his caprices, 
ends by loving his faults and losing all desire to get rid of 
them. Then he is deaf to reason ; he immediately rejects 
the most cogent arguments ; his will tyrannizes over his 
judgment ; he deceives himself intentionally, and remains 
a rebel to the solicitations of grace. 



RENUNCIATION 181 

202. Mortification, on the contrary, sets the heart free, 
gives liberty to the soul, and a sounder judgment, and one 
more open to holy inspirations, to the Spirit. And then, 
again, the light of grace is usually in proportion to the 
degree of renunciation, because God is more favourably 
disposed to Christians who do penance. 

By every sacrifice God is made dearer to us, and we 
dearer to God. God becomes dearer, because a sacrifice 
is an act of love, and because every act of charity increases 
this beautiful virtue within us. By loving, we learn to 
love. Again, it makes God dearer to us, because it de 
taches us from the creature, and because the heart, to which 
love is as essential as thought to the mind, will love God the 
more in proportion as it has less affection for earthly things 
Augmentum charitatis, diminutio cupiditatis (St. Augustine). 

Each sacrifice renders us dearer to God, Who loves those 
more by whom He is more beloved Ego diligentes me 
diligo. And so it inclines Him to grant us more powerful 
and more abundant graces. Finally, mortification, whilst 
accustoming us to bow our will to the yoke of faith, makes 
all other virtues more easy to us : obedience, which is only 
the entire submission of our will to that of superiors ; 
humility, which is only the sacrifice of self-love ; charity, 
which consists in forgetfulness of self, in order to serve 
others ; and, above all, patience, which scarcely exists 
without mortification, for only those who have learnt by 
penance to die to themselves and all their attachments are 
able to take up their cross. 

203. "It was by the constant practice of mortification 
that St. Dorotheus led his disciple Dositheus to a sublime 
degree of perfection, as he says himself in the life of his 
young pupil. This holy master set himself to discover 
even the trivial attachments which impeded Dositheus s 
spiritual advancement, and when he perceived one he 
immediately endeavoured to subdue it, not ceasing to 
combat it until he had entirely conquered it. Then, when 
he saw that his disciple had mastered this first affection, 



1 82 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

he passed on to another, to deliver him equally from that. 
When, for example, he noticed that Dositheus was very 
much attached to a book, a knife, or anything else, he 
immediately took it from him. When he perceived that 
he had a partiality for some well-executed piece of work, 
he did not even deign to look at it. When his pupil came 
and asked him a question, the answer to which might have 
been an occasion of vanity to him, he sent him away with 
out even replying. 

" Meanwhile, the other monks were struck with admira 
tion, for they saw how Dositheus, who, because of his weak 
health, was unable either to fast or watch, or undergo the 
other austerities of community life, had nevertheless 
arrived at a very high degree of perfection. And when, 
urged on by holy curiosity, they asked him what were the 
virtues that he practised, he replied frankly : I mortify 
all my desires and submit my will. In fact, by these 
interior mortifications alone he attained within the space 
of five years to so eminent a perfection that, after his 
death, he appeared all resplendent with glory among the 
most illustrious Saints of his Order. So true is it that 
mortification, which restrains the passions and disordered 
appetites, speedily leads to Christian perfection " (Scara- 
melli, Directorium Asceticum, part ii., art. vi., chap. iii.). 

204. What we have said of recollection is equally true of 
mortification. It is easy enough to obtain the exercise of 
this virtue from souls who are experiencing the enthusiastic 
devotion of a nascent piety. As long as they are in the 
state of effervescence caused by the effusion of sensible 
graces, they find consolations and intimate joys which 
sweeten its bitterness and act as a powerful stimulus. They 
should always, however, be encouraged in it, for this 
generous practice of mortification, joined to a carefully 
maintained state of recollection, will greatly favour the 
workings of grace. It is thus that we may obtain " the 
grace, for example, of feeling interiorly a lively sorrow for 
our sins, bewailing them bitterly, or of shedding tears over 



RENUNCIATION 183 

the griefs and sufferings which our Lord Jesus Christ endured 
in His Passion, or, again, the solution of some doubt " 
(St. Ignatius, Exercises, first week; Additions, first remark). 

With regard to those souls who have grown old in piety, 
and whose spiritual progress seems arrested, it would be 
doing them a great service to persuade them of their need 
for mortification. As we have said, they are not entirely 
strangers to it, or they would very quickly sink lower. 
Thus, they often find opportunities for renunciation in the 
accomplishment of the duties of their state, in their fidelity 
to their exercises, in the practice of certain virtues. But 
a more generous mortification, practised with a more direct 
view to penance, would be an indispensable means to them, 
both of drawing down upon themselves a recrudescence 
of the graces which they so greatly need and of destroying 
the obstacles which stand in the way of their advancement. 1 

205. Mortification is either bodily or spiritual, according 
as it operates upon the body or affects the will only. We 
distinguish also between negative mortification, which con 
sists in not running after the sweets and delights of life, 
and positive mortification, which consists in the austerities 
which we inflict upon ourselves out of a spirit of penance. 

Negative mortification is indispensable for those who 
propose to serve God generously. We cannot serve two 
masters. If we wish to gratify nature and yield to its 
requirements, we shall serve God badly. 

But if this renouncement of natural pleasure is indis 
pensable to piety, can we, as some would fain believe, 
limit our efforts, and remain entirely quiescent in the path 
of mortification ? We should know very little of human 
nature if we thought to confine it in these narrow bounds. 
It may be said to be impossible to practise self-denial if 
we are not mortified. It would be a real feat in the 
spiritual domain to renounce everything, and yet deprive 
ourselves of nothing. To negative mortification must, 
then, be joined positive mortification, by which we mean 
1 See a list of mortifications at the end of vol. ii. 



1 84 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

sacrifices undertaken voluntarily with the purpose of 
chastising and conquering nature. 

What we have just said is equally applicable both to 
interior and exterior mortification. With regard to the 
latter, it cannot be denied that it is very useful and salu 
tary, and frequently necessary if we would maintain our 
selves in fervour. St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises, 
St. Francis of Sales in his Devout Life, enumerate the dif 
ferent kinds of austerity suitable for devout souls. And 
did not our Divine Model, Jesus Christ Himself, fast, watch, 
lie on the hard ground ? Did He not give over His body 
to the executioners ? And as the lives of Saints of all 
nations and ages witness, has not the Spirit of God always 
inspired docile souls with a holy hatred for their own 
bodies ? While bodily mortification is beneficial to all, it 
is particularly useful to those good but weak souls who in 
times of sadness and affliction are tempted to lose heart 
and become discouraged. Nothing could be more fatal 
than these feelings of bitter melancholy. " This evil sad 
ness disturbs the soul, throws it into a state of anxiety, 
causes unreasonable fears and a distaste for prayer. It 
stupefies and overpowers the brain, deprives the soul of 
wisdom, resolution, judgment, and courage, and it over 
throws its strength. In short, it is like a hard winter, which 
cuts off all the beauty of the earth, and benumbs the whole 
animal creation, for it takes all pleasure from the soul, and 
renders it almost crippled and powerless in all its faculties " 
(Devout Life, iv. 12). 

Now, one of the remedies declared to be so effective by 
the holy Bishop of Geneva is precisely this bodily penance, 
because this voluntary external affliction produces in 
terior consolation, and the soul, experiencing outward pains, 
is distracted from those that are within " (Devout Life y 
iv. 12). 

In a letter to St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. Francis 
of Sales also advises the use of bodily penances as a remedy 
against temptation, and he gives a like reason. "It is 



RENUNCIATION 185 

wonderful how this remedy (the discipline) has succeeded 
with a soul that I know. Doubtless, the outward sensa 
tion acts as a diversion to the inner pain and affliction, 
and provokes the mercy of God, while, in addition to this 
fact, the Evil One, seeing his partner and confederate, the 
flesh, chastised, is afraid, and takes to flight " (Letter of 
October 14, 1604). 

206. Bodily mortification is also very useful to those 
Christians of a careless temperament, who certainly show 
an enlightened faith, real good-will, and a sincere desire 
to give themselves up to piety, but whose lack of 
ardour and softness of nature hinder them in the right 
way. Bodily mortification is their best means of acquiring 
a true generosity. 1 

There are many occasions upon which this practice of 
positive mortification should be advocated. 2 " Impose 
sacrifices upon yourselves," we shall say, " be ingenious in 
finding them out, but do them out of love for our Lord ; 
they will then cost you less and be more meritorious. Say 
to Jesus in all simplicity : I should like to give myself 
such a little pleasure, not to deprive myself of such a 
satisfaction, but I would rather please Thee, O my God, 
and I wish to show Thee that I love Thee much more 
than the thing that I am sacrificing to Thee. If you are 
not capable of speaking thus to God, the reason is that 
your love for Him is very faint. If you care so little to 
do penance in reparation of your faults, you are hardly 
sorry for having offended Him. Do not say that these 
are mere details ; for the least sacrifice, the most insignifi 
cant privation, becomes precious in the sight of God if the 
intention prompting it is holy, if you impose it upon your 
self through a motive of love." 

1 Cf. Libermann, Letter of October 10, 1837. 

2 It is unnecessary to point out that a generous practice of the 
duties of our state, where any distasteful element is involved, is 
the first mortification to be imposed. This is a matter, not of counsel, 
but of precept. 



1 86 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

2. Patience. 

207. He who will deprive himself of nothing, who never 
makes any sacrifices, will not be able to bear any trials, 
and this is why it is necessary first to have recourse to 
mortification, for it is, we believe, the surest means of 
conforming ourselves to patience. There is something in 
mortification which carries us further, which excites fervour 
in beginners more than simple resignation. Activity is 
pleasing to nature ; it is easier to hurl ourselves into 
the strife, and even to be our own executioners, than 
to stand resignedly, submissive to our appointed lot. So 
with most souls we consider that, in order to move them 
to piety, the best plan is first to ask some slight sacrifices 
of them, and thus bring them insensibly to deny them 
selves and to suffer for God. 

But if generally more difficult to exercise, patience is 
only so much the more meritorious and beneficial. The 
sacrifices which Providence imposes upon us are better 
suited to our needs than those we choose of our own 
accord, and when they are generously accepted they greatly 
favour that delicate work called in ascetical language the 
despoiling of the old man, or death unto self. 

208. Devout souls, having received a fuller light than 
beginners, will be more easily reached by exhortations 
addressed to them upon this subject. We should impress 
upon them, before all things, that their trials are willed, 
or, at least, allowed, by God, in His designs so full of 
goodness and wisdom. We must, therefore, always receive 
them as coming from Him, and lovingly kiss the hand 
which strikes us. " If it depended only on me," we might 
say to them, " you would be very quickly relieved from 
this trouble ; but I should do wrong in so acting, since 
God, Who is wiser than I, and Who desires your welfare 
more, has otherwise ordained. Woe unto you if you reject 
this cross, or are unwilling to profit by it. It would be 
refusing God s guidance, bringing to naught His designs 



RENUNCIATION 187 

for you, wandering from the road by which He wishes to 
lead you, and running the risk of going astray and getting 
lost. To flee from the cross is to flee from grace. But 
you know all this, and I am saying nothing new. You 
have often told God in the full sincerity of your heart 
that you would consent to anything for love of Him ; and, 
indeed, how many sacrifices have you not already made, 
how many times have you not bent your head patiently 
beneath the chastising rod ? This trial seems harder, but 
it is also more sanctifying, and God, Who bestows His 
grace in proportion to our needs, is quite ready to grant 
you more help. This superabundant help you will obtain 
if you pray, but you must pray perseveringly. You think 
yourself too weak ; then say to God, like St. Augustine : 
Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis (Impose upon me, my God, 
all the sacrifices Thou wilt, but give me the strength to 
accomplish them). Ah ! you cannot deny the truth of 
my words. Do you not hear, deep down in your heart, 
a voice which tells you the same things, which also preaches 
to you patience and renunciation ? That voice is the voice 
of God. Will you close your ears to His gentle exhorta 
tions, and listen to the counsels of the devil, who urges 
you to impatience and rebellion ? True, they will answer ; 
but my patience is at an end. Must I always suffer in 
this way ? Come ! away with these thoughts. No 
anxieties for the morrow ! Jesus Himself has forbidden 
it. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof/ Do not 
distrust your heavenly Father. Rest upon Him as a child 
rests upon its mother s breast, casting all your care upon 
Him. It would, indeed, wound Him to the heart did you 
doubt His goodness and His fatherly Providence." 

All the motives of Christian patience are admirably 
expressed in a well-known little work by the Blessed Louis 
Grignon de Montfort A Letter to the Friends of the Cross. 
Its perusal cannot be too much recommended to devout 
souls. But what will uphold them more than anything 
else is love of the crucified Jesus. Meditation upon the 



1 88 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

sufferings of our Lord is necessary for every one during 
their time of trial, and nowhere better than at Calvary 
shall we find patience and courage. 

209. When the trial seems more than we can bear we 
should strive to put away the thought of it as far as pos 
sible, and to distract ourselves by thinking of something 
else. Imagination, indeed, only serves to increase our 
grief. It is certainly difficult to overcome this vagrant 
faculty. " Just as," says St. Teresa (Fourth Mansion, 
chap, i.), " we cannot arrest the progress of the heavenly 
bodies which travel at such a prodigious speed, so neither 
can we check the movements of the imagination." Never 
theless, we can to some extent divert its course, and apply 
it to other ideas and other preoccupations. This is what 
we must strive to do in moments of weariness. Avoid all 
dreaming, and endeavour to keep our minds constantly 
and usefully employed. Even if we only partially suc 
ceed, the least results so gained would be good, and would 
be so much in the direction of calm and peace of heart. 

And especially in cases of anger and hatred towards our 
neighbour is it necessary to banish those bitter memories 
which possess the imagination. When a penitent who is a 
prey to active resentment complains that he cannot for 
give, he must, before everything, be made to understand 
that it is his duty to do so, and that he must forgive if he 
wants God to forgive him ; that Jesus Christ, Who has 
pardoned him so many times, has a right to demand this 
sacrifice from him. The director will require him to pray 
for the person of whom he has so much to complain, but 
especially will he show him that forgetf illness of injuries 
will be much more easy if he sets to work to reject all 
these bitter thoughts as soon as they present themselves, 
just as one would put away impure thoughts. 

210. Without going so far as these temptations to aver 
sion and hatred, there is another very common trial with 
devout souls, and which may be considered in the train 
of those just mentioned this is having differences with 



RENUNCIATION 189 

the members of their households. Here, again, patience 
is very necessary. Diversities of character, divergencies 
of opinion, contradictions, criticisms, reproaches with more 
or less truth in them all these have a great place in 
human lives. The devil knows how to profit by them, 
recalling ceaselessly to the mind the memory of the in 
juries and reasons for dissatisfaction which we believe our 
selves to have. He inspires feelings of bitterness which 
seem insurmountable. The first advice to be given is the 
same as in the preceding case. " You think too much 
about your troubles. By dwelling upon them perpetually 
you never diminish them, but, on the contrary, you only 
magnify them, making both the forgiveness of the wrongs 
and the exercise of the holy virtues of gentleness and 
charity much more difficult. It may be that the demands 
made upon you, the burdens laid upon you, the annoyances 
to which you are subjected, are very unreasonable ; but 
the more this is so, the greater your merit in accepting 
them for the love of Jesus." 

It is hardly credible to how great an extent these trials 
(light enough in themselves, but often most intolerably 
frequent, or, rather, continuous) serve for the advancement 
of generous souls, causing them to produce a multitude of 
acts of renunciation and love. 

If souls who are too fond of themselves should be thus 
exhorted to patience, we must, on the other hand, comfort 
those who, while entirely submissive to the Divine will, 
have a false and mistaken idea of Christian resignation. 
" Do not refrain from complaining," wrote St. Francis of 
Sales to an invalid lady ; " but I should wish it to be to 
God, in a child-like spirit, like a little child to his mother ; 
for, provided that it is done lovingly, there is no harm either 
in complaining or in asking to be relieved, either in chang 
ing one s place of abode or in seeking solace. Only let it 
be done with love and resignation in the arms of God s 
good pleasure." 



190 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

CHAPTER III 

HUMILITY 

I. Ordinary humility and the humility of perfection The director 
must inculcate the principles of humility, make his penitents 
feel their need of it, and show the great advantage accruing 
therefrom. 

211. ACCORDING to what we have hitherto said, the sensible 
graces, which capture the heart and attach it firmly to 
God s service, are especially abundant in those who lead a 
recollected and mortified life ; but these sweetnesses, which 
God gives us to incite us to prayer and renunciation, may 
become dangerous ; they may develop self-love and furnish 
food for pride. Even when they do not actually quicken 
it, if they do not lessen pride, if the soul does not take the 
opportunity of getting to know its failings better and of 
owning its nothingness, the effects of this grace of devotion 
will be much attenuated, and the soul s progress towards 
perfection will soon be stayed. 

Humility, then, is indispensable ; if it accompanies 
mortification, the Divine graces will become more and more 
powerful Deus humilibus dat gratiam and its advance 
will be rapid and assured. 

The humility which must be inculcated in these devout 
souls is not only the ordinary humility of general precept, 
because all, even everyday Christians, understand its 
necessity. Common humility, in fact, consists in not think 
ing ourselves great, and in not getting ourselves admired 
and praised for qualities which we do not possess, or for 
trifling advantages which are evidently not worthy of any 
esteem, such as dress and luxury. It consists also in not 
setting ourselves above others, or despising them, and also 
in accepting without bitterness, from those whose charge and 
mission it is to administer them, the blame and reproaches 
which we have drawn upon ourselves by our faults. 

But there is a more perfect humility which supposes a 



HUMILITY 191 

more delicate knowledge than that possessed by the rank 
and file, and in which souls may consequently be lacking 
without sin, not understanding the obligation. This is the 
humility of perfection. In order to practise it we must not 
only refrain from making our good qualities an occasion for 
self-aggrandisement, but we must have a mean opinion of 
ourselves, being well pleased that others should share this 
poor opinion with us, and testify their little respect for us 
by their lack of regard, or even by contempt. 

212. It is to this further degree of humility that devout 
souls must be brought if we wish to consolidate their piety 
and lead them on to fervour. 

This, truly, is not an easy task. It has been rightly said 
of this kind of humility that, unknown to the philosophers 
of antiquity, it was a virtue reserved for Christianity. It is 
above the powers of nature ; but He Who came to teach the 
world by His example and precepts, He Who said of Him 
self, Ego sum vermis et non homo, opprobrium hominum et 
abjectio plebis, 1 the God Who so effaced Himself as to take 
upon Himself the form of a servant, gives these feelings of 
perfect humility to willing hearts, and fashions them thus 
after His own likeness. 

The director s first care must be to inculcate in his peni 
tents the principles of humility, by requiring them fre 
quently to dwell upon them, in order that they may be 
quite penetrated by them and convinced of them, as we are 
of the first truths of religion, with regard to which we never 
have any doubt. This is the great principle of humility so well 
expressed by St. Paul : Quid habes quod non accepisti ? Si 
autem accepisti, quid gloriaris quasi non acceperis ? 2 Our 
few good qualities, which, moreover, we are always liable 
to exaggerate, do not come from ourselves, but from God. 
Our only real possessions are our failings and our sins. 

1 " But I am a worm, and no man : the reproach of men, and the 
outcast of the people " (Ps. xxi. 7). 

2 " What hast thou that thou hast not received ? And if thou 
hast received it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received 
it ?" (i Cor. iv. 7). 



1 92 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

" Alas/ says St. Francis of Sales (Devout Life, iii. 5), "do 
mules cease to be clumsy and filthy beasts because they are 
loaded with the precious and perfumed treasures of princes ?" 

213. Spiritual writers go at great length into all the 
reasons which we have for humility : how of ourselves we 
are nothing, we possess nothing, are worth nothing, and, 
finally, are sinners. As we are not writing a treatise on 
humility, we will not expatiate upon these grounds. 1 We 
shall merely say that the director must be thoroughly 
acquainted with them, in order that he may frequently show 
to such of his pentients as are already pious how vain and 
foolish a thing this self-esteem is. 

The spiritual father must also apply himself to lessening 
the spirit of pride in his children by his way of dealing with 
them. Not that he should treat them roughly, for they 
would not yet be sufficiently strong to bear this trial 
profitably ; but he should not show them any exaggerated 
admiration or esteem. Further, let him draw their attention 
to their self-love, for it is a defect into which beginners 
usually slide unconsciously. When they have failed in 
some way, and this fault, as often happens, proceeds from 
want of humility, he will show them their wrongdoing 
gently but firmly. He will make them admit it by pointing 
out how far from perfect they are, and how, had they desired 
it, they could, by the aid of prayer and humility, have 
avoided this fall. He will say : " I am not at all astonished 
at your weakness. I know your good points, but I know 
also how much pride and self-esteem still remain in you. 
You yourself will admit that humility is not your predomi 
nant virtue. How good it would be to be able to recognize 
our unworthiness, and out of love for Jesus, Who also 
suffered humiliation, to put up with contradictions and 
humiliations ! Oh, how holy are the humble souls ! 
how much they are beloved by God ! How good it is to 
say with the Saints : Lord, I willingly consent to suffer 

1 See upon this subject M. Olier, Introduction aux Vertus Chr6- 
tiennes. It is admirable in its lucidity and depth. 



HUMILITY 193 

and to be despised for Thy sake ! (Domine pati et contemni 
pro te). 1 It is not as difficult as you might think to attain 
to this humility to have an ardent love for Him Who is 
so lovable will suffice. The love of Jesus makes all trials 
and humiliations sweet. Pray and love, and you will 
become great in humility." 

If there is any fear lest these penitents should give them 
selves up to vain feelings of self-satisfaction, the director 
will point to the examples of those whose virtues are more 
perfect, whose merits surpass their own those who have 
worked, suffered, and merited more for God ; or, again, 
whilst encouraging them and rejoicing with them over their 
small efforts, he should remind them how very little it all 
is compared with God s perfections. Oh, if we but under 
stood how good, how perfect, how lovable Almighty God 
is, what much greater sacrifices we should perform for 
Him without any difficulty ! 

Again, he will show them what they could and what they 
should have done if they had been faithful to the special 
graces which have been accorded to them if they had re 
sponded to God s all-merciful designs with regard to them. 

214. We have just said that, whilst showing these devout 
souls their need of humility, we should also show them all 
its charm and advantage. In fact, to cause this beautiful 
virtue to be esteemed and desired, and to lead Christians 
to pray for it ardently and insistently, is one of the most 
important duties of a director. We must, then, remind 
them of the high place which humility held in the opinion 
of all the Saints, how they are all agreed in representing it 
as the foundation of holiness sanctitatis fundamentum 
(St. Cyprian) ; the first virtue of Christians prima virtus 
christianorum (St. Jerome) ; the guardian of all the virtues 
(St. Bernard). Just as pride is the beginning of all sin 
initium omnis peccati superbia (Ecclus. x. 15) the capital 
sin amongst capital sins, so humility is a capital virtue, 

1 The reply of St. John of the Cross to our Lord when he was 
asked what reward he desired (see his Office in the Breviary). 
VOL. I. 13 



194 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

and the foundation of all the others. St. Athanasius, in his 
Life of St. Antony, relates how the Lord once showed the 
holy monk the whole world covered with pitfalls and snares, 
and when, alarmed by the sight of so many and great 
dangers, Antony asked how he might escape them : " By 
humility," was the answer that he received. 

" Humility and charity," wrote St. Francis of Sales, 
" are the mistresses of all the virtues ; the others follow, as 
chickens run after the mother hen." It must also be 
remembered what a special love our Lord has always had 
for the humble, how dear this virtue makes us to the Heart 
of Jesus dear also to the heart of Mary so that the highest 
places in heaven are reserved for those who shall have 
humbled themselves most here below : Qui se humiliat, 
exaltabitur. 

Happy are they who have formed a high idea of humility, 
who desire it and seek for it as the precious pearl of the 
Gospel, who make lively and constant supplication to God 
in order to obtain it. It is the surest road to humility, 
and persevering prayer will do more towards the acquisition 
of this superhuman virtue than all worldly methods put 
together. And, in order to make his children understand 
this better, when they ask his prayers, the spiritual father 
will sometimes do well to reply : " Yes, I will pray for you, 
I will implore God to make you very humble, even although, 
in order to achieve this, He must subject you to severe 
humiliations." 

2. The Practice of Humility. Firstly, to admit our abasement ; 
secondly, to consent that others should recognize it, and to sacrifice 
their esteem ; thirdly, to accept humiliations. 

215. We do not, however, mean to say that prayer must 
be employed to the exclusion of every other method. It 
is by no means useless to strive to produce acts of humility. 
Humiliatio est via ad humilitatem sicut lectio ad scientiam 
(We become humble by humiliating ourselves, just as we 
become learned by studying). These attempts to humble 
ourselves are very praiseworthy, and, besides, what soul is 
there possessing good-will who would sincerely ask our 



HUMILITY 195 

Lord for the virtue of humility without endeavouring to 
produce acts of humility ? 

The first way of exercising humility is to recognize our 
own insignificance, or, as St. Francis of Sales says, to love 
our abjection (Devout Life, iii. 6). We are nothing ; let us 
confess our nothingness with a good grace, and, instead of 
getting angry at seeing ourselves infirm, miserable, and 
subject to all kinds of weaknesses, imperfections, and sins, 
let us admit in all sincerity that it is a great grace of God 
that we are not still worse ; and let us even rejoice that we 
have nothing good in us except that which is instilled into 
us by God. This is what we must remind those who are 
vexed and angry with themselves, those who are astonished 
at their falls, or who give way to vain anxieties and dis 
couragement. What is lacking in these Christians, who are 
so given over to gloomy thoughts, is the love of their abjec 
tion. A large share of self-love and pride enters, unknown to 
them, into their anxious desires to be rid of their infirmities. 

216. If we have a poor opinion of ourselves and treat 
ourselves accordingly, it will be easy to accept it cheerfully 
when others have the same opinion of us ; and the second 
method of practising humility consists in thus renouncing 
the esteem of others. 

Our first advice on this point is to repress, vigorously and 
constantly, the desires and preoccupations of vainglory 
which spring up so spontaneously within the human heart. 
We must, then, reject, the instant we become aware of it, 
every desire to be admired or esteemed, to pass for clever, 
amiable, intelligent, pious, etc. We shall not linger over 
those childish dreams in which we imagine conversations and 
events wherein we always take the hero s part. Nor shall 
we consent to the desire to be sought after, consulted, and 
even approved of. 

Finally, we must struggle against a very ordinary con 
sideration in souls given up to vanity, and which too fre 
quently influences their conduct : " What will they say ? 
what will they think of me ?" Is it not better to say 

132 



196 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

with St. Paul, " I care little for the judgment of creatures ; 
I only wish to seek to please God " (Parum est mihi ut a 
vobis judicer . . . qui autem judicat me, Dominus est) ? 

The renunciation of the esteem of others will be prac 
tised in speech by the cutting off of all boasting, or of every 
word which tends to make us thought well of, and in action 
by the care we shall take not to display ostentatiously, and 
even to hide, the good that is in us, or anything of a nature 
calculated to excite the admiration and praise of our 
neighbour. 

217. The third way of practising humility consists in 
the acceptance of humiliations and contempt. To excuse 
ourselves temperately only and without bitterness, and 
sometimes even not to excuse ourselves at all ; to bear 
patiently all humiliating circumstances, such as snubs, 
occasions where we are made to appear ridiculous, rebukes, 
rebuffs, criticisms, mockery, with the thought that we have 
richly deserved them by our infidelities, and even to look 
upon them as blessings from God Who wishes to make us 
gain great merit, and that we may become like unto Jesus 
such are the different points of this third way of humility, 
which may be called passive humility. 

Finally, in order to attain to the practice in its perfection 
of a virtue so difficult to nature as this virtue of humility, 
the devout soul must often consider the example of Jesus 
Christ, scoffed at, mocked, spit upon, insulted in every way, 
and for our sakes. 



CHAPTER IV 

PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 

218. YEARS pass before the soul emerges from the illu 
minative life ; during this period we must keep up its ardour 
and maintain it in vigilance and strife with self. It is true 
that the three great virtues of which we have spoken 
recollection, mortification, and humility may be the cause 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 197 

of its making considerable progress, and may even bring it 
to the unitive life. But will it always practise them with 
the same fidelity ? In this illuminative state, where the 
senses play a great part, is it not to be feared that the soul 
will fall into routine and sink gradually to sleep ? For, 
as we have shown, sensible fervour, unlike that calm but 
strong fervour of perfect souls, is subject to many imperfec 
tions, and needs to be perpetually rekindled. The ardour, 
then, of pious souls, and their somewhat fluctuating 
activity, requires constantly to be kept alive under pain of 
evaporating entirely, and giving place to a dangerous 
relaxation. 

On the other hand, their renunciation is usually im 
perfect, either because their hearts have not been in it 
from the beginning, or because many almost invisible 
attachments still remain which escape their own notice, 
and from which they never think of setting themselves free. 

To remedy this double inconvenience, certain directors, 
in these days especially, 1 have recourse to what they call 
probations. Each probation is a system of exercises, which, 
by presenting one virtue under all its aspects, reveals its 
full intensity and scope. While the soul is thus kept on 

1 This method of direction was explained and popularized by 
M. 1 Abbe Chaumont, Canon of Paris, of holy memory (died May 15, 
1896) ; it is not, however, a new invention. The particular examen 
practised according to the method of St. Ignatius is really the same 
thing. With regard to making the particular examen and other 
exercises converge towards the same end, Rodriguez had already 
counselled it, relying upon the authority of Cassian : 

" It is also very useful to take for the particular examen the same 
subject that has already been taken for prayer, and in this way to 
join prayer and examination, because then, our exercises all tending 
in the same direction, we can make greater progress. But Cassian 
goes still further and wishes " (Collat., IX., chap, xxxv.) " that not 
only in the examination and in prayer we should insist upon what is 
most necessary for us, but that several times during the day we 
should raise our spirit to God with short and energetic prayers, 
with sighs and groanings of heart, and that to that, again, we should 
add penances, mortifications, and particular devotions in order to 
obtain it " (On Prayer, chap. xv.). 



198 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

the alert by a comprehensive variety (for its attention is 
successively directed upon the different virtues), it acquires 
an increasingly exact, an increasingly complete, under 
standing of perfect self-denial. The results will obviously 
be more certain and complete if the spiritual father himself 
controls and directs the work. 
I ": 219. The probation can be summed up as follows : 

(1) To make one particular virtue the object of our 
prayers, meditations, and Communions. 

(2) To strive to practise the acts of this virtue. 

(3) To examine ourselves daily upon our fidelity to this 
virtue. 

(4) To report to our director on the progress made. 

For this purpose each of these points should be taken 
separately, and we should state 

(1) Have we prayed earnestly for this virtue, made it 
the subject of our meditation, proposed its acquirement as 
the intention of our Communions, rosaries, etc. ? 

(2) How have we practised it ? in what way striven after 
it ? by what means pursued it ? how often and in what 
circumstances have we been faithful to it ? 

(3) Have we renewed our resolutions every morning, 
examined ourselves on this point every evening ? 

(4) Do we esteem this virtue more highly, desire it more 
ardently ? Have we made definite and energetic resolu 
tions with regard to it ? 

(5) Have we progressed or gone back, and to what cause 
do we attribute this result ? 

Written down, with the aid of a set of questions, this 
report demands more attention, and also gives better results. 

In order to obtain more profit from these exercises, it is 
good to have at hand some spiritual books treating particu 
larly of the proposed virtue. 

Besides those virtues recollection, mortification, 
patience, humility the importance of which we have 
pointed out, probations may have reference to the spirit 
of prayer, obedience, brotherly love, the spirit of detach- 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 199 

ment and poverty, chastity, devotion to the Blessed Sacra 
ment or to our Lady. 

To show how each of these virtues should be considered 
under its different aspects, and to study the various manners 
of practising it, we give a few examples. 

Recollection, and Union with God. 

220. Recollection consists in two things : (i) To close 
the heart as much as possible to the cares and turmoil of 
the world, and (2) to open it on the side of heaven. 

I. (i) To shun all distracting occupations, noisy amuse 
ment, purposeless visits, prolonged conversations, useless 
speech, searching after news, profane and idle reading. 

(2) To be careful to regulate our behaviour by avoiding 
in our movements, gait, glances, and all our actions, every 
thing that favours dissipation. 

(3) To cut short all day-dreaming, and repress all that 
work of the imagination, those anxieties, preoccupations, 
schemes, projects, calculations, those memories in which we 
always say the same things to ourselves, thereby wasting 
much precious time and encouraging many defects uncon 
sciously. 

II. (4) At once upon awaking to think of God as being 
near to us ; during the day, whenever we hear the clock 
strike, to repeat this exercise, taking care to join an act of 
adoration and love to this remembrance of His presence. It 
would also be well to ask for grace to serve Him rightly and 
faithfully, and to keep the resolutions which we have made. 

(5) To substitute pious thoughts and short and affec 
tionate outpourings of the heart for those useless thoughts 
which we have learnt to restrain, and this particularly at 
times when the mind is free and unoccupied, when coming 
and going, or travelling. 

(6) To do everything for God. Frequently to call to mind 
the supernatural motives which should inspire the whole 
conduct of a Christian soul. God requires this of me. O God, 
I rejoice, even in my least actions, to do Thy holy will. 



200 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Prayer Resolutions and Examen on the Manner of Praying. 

221. Prayer to be good must be 

(1) Attentive. " Before praying," the Holy Spirit tells 
us, " prepare thy soul, and tempt not the Lord." 

It is to tempt God, therefore, to begin to pray without 
preparation to pray, that is, without being first recol 
lected, without having emptied the imagination of all use 
less thoughts, without having penetrated ourselves with the 
greatness of God, the sublime majesty of Him Whom we 
are addressing, and without having at least glanced upon 
the immensity of our own needs. 

(2) Humble. Convinced of my own nothingness and 
misery, filled with confusion at the sight of my count 
less infidelities, I will admit my unworthiness and abase 
myself profoundly before God. " God resisteth the proud : 
He giveth grace to the humble." 

(3) Trustful. I will remember the goodness of God, 
more desirous of my welfare than I am myself ; the merits 
of Jesus Christ, on which I found all my hope. Never will I 
be discouraged on the pretext that I do not obtain what I 
wish for quickly enough. Discouragement is a snare of the 
devil ; invincible faith is a sure means of being heard. 
" All things, whatsoever ye ask when ye pray, believe that 
you shall receive ; and they shall come unto you " (Mark 
xi. 24). 

(4) Fervent. He prays well who ardently desires to be 
heard ; he prays badly whose heart is not in his prayer, 
who expresses no real desires to our Lord, and only prays, 
so to speak, reluctantly, like one performing an unwelcome 
duty. In order to maintain my fervour and to avoid 
routine, I will always propose an intention which is quite 
definite and adapted to my spiritual needs, and this either 
in my private prayers or other devotional exercises, such as 
assistance at Mass, etc. 

(5) Persevering. I will not cease to pray, returning to the 
charge without slackening, however much God may delay in 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 201 

hearing me. Jesus Christ has said that we must pray in 
such a manner as to weary, to importune, if it were pos 
sible, our Heavenly Father. 

Under circumstances where prayer is particularly diffi 
cult to me, and I find it almost impossible to fix my atten 
tion, even then I will not relax my efforts, remembering 
that what God requires of us is not the victory, but the 
conflict, and that a prayer full of aridity and dryness, made 
up of continual distractions which we incessantly try to 
repel without success, is usually more pleasing to God and 
more fruitful to the soul than one full of sweetness and con 
solation. 

In order to learn to pray well, I will strive to give to my 
prayer each of the above-named qualities successively. 
So, on Monday I will try to pray with attention, on 
Tuesday with humility, on Wednesday with great con 
fidence, etc. ; or, which would be better, and would help me 
to form more settled habits, I will direct my efforts for a 
whole week to each one of these points. At fixed times I 
will examine myself, to see if I am faithful to the day s 
resolution. 



Resolutions and Examen on Humility. 

" Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto 
Thine." 

222. It is to humble souls, says the Holy Spirit, that God 
grants His blessings. The prayer of the humble, we are 
told again, is all-powerful with the Heart of God. " He 
that humbleth himself shall be exalted," Jesus Christ has 
said. 

In order that I may acquire this great virtue of humility, 
as important as it is difficult of attainment, I will take the 
following points successively as a subject for my resolutions 
and matter for self-examination. 

(i) Self -Knowledge. I will learn to know myself, to 
think often of my nothingness. I will remember my faults 



202 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

weaknesses, languors, countless negligences, my continual 
unfaithfulness to grace, and I will try thus to obtain a 
profound and habitual inward conviction regarding the sad 
state of my soul. 

I will occupy myself particularly with these thoughts 

(a) When I am tempted to be self-satisfied, and to fancy 
myself better than others. 

(b) When I am preparing to pray, abasing myself thus 
humbly before God ; at the beginning of Holy Mass, for 
instance, or of my meditation, at my visits to the Blessed 
Sacrament or when about to recite the Rosary. 

(c) Immediately after committing any fault. 

(2) In my Relations with my Neighbour. To compare 
myself with those who are obviously better than I am, in 
order that I may not exalt myself foolishly over others ; 
to consider their good qualities and excuse their faults ; 
never to lose sight of my own failings, both visible and 
secret : in God s eyes I am perhaps more ungrateful and 
reprehensible than those whom I despise. 

(3) Wishes. I will reject, as soon as I perceive it, every 
wish to be admired or esteemed. I will not want to be 
thought clever, pleasant, intelligent, good, pious, etc. If 
such a thought of vanity steals into my mind, I will re 
nounce it instantly, and ask God to deliver me from it. I 
will not stop to reflect that this or that may make me 
esteemed, nor will I make up conversations or scenes in my 
imagination in which I always give myself the principal 
part. 

(4) Self-Love. I will not wish to be sought after, con 
sulted, or even approved of. 

(5) Self -Esteem. Instead of feeling injured and uttering 
complaints or blame when others disagree with me or take 
some step of which I disapprove, I will humble myself 
interiorly, saying to myself that I know nothing about it, 
and that it would be foolish pride on my part to put my 
opinion before that of others. 

(6) Humility in Speech. I will speak readily of the good 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 203 

qualities of others, and try to make them well thought of, 
especially such persons as are least attractive to me, or 
with regard to whom I have any feelings of jealousy. 

(7) I will never say anything in praise of myself, not 
even a word which might tend to raise me in the esteem 
of others, or which redounds to my own credit. 

(8) I will not justify myself when reproved or blamed. 
Should I think it my duty to do so, I will speak gently 
and without bitterness. 

(9) I will readily say things which might expose me to 
shame, admitting my faults simply. I will honestly lay 
bare to my director the most secret recesses of my soul, 
no matter what embarrassment I may feel in so doing. 

(10) Humility in Conduct. I will do nothing from human 
respect, in order to draw attention to myself and win 
approval, saying to myself, like St. Paul : " To me it is a 
very small thing to be judged by you." I am concerned 
with pleasing God only. 

(n) Acts of Humility. I will rejoice and thank God 
whenever I have any menial and disagreeable office to 
perform. I will be humble in my bearing, glad some 
times to wear old and ordinary-looking clothes. At night 
I will kiss the ground and humbly implore God s pardon. 

(12) I will treat those about me with the same deference 
as if they were my superiors and I their servant. 

(13) I will choose the lowest places for myself, the least 
of everything, and what no one else wishes for. 

(14) Passive Humility. I will accept, not only patiently, 
but joyfully, and with thanks to God, all opportunities 
for humility which may come to me, such as moments of 
embarrassment, criticisms, reprimands, rebuffs, mockery, 
slander, calumnies, believing that these trials (over and 
above the fact that I deserve them for my infidelities) are 
the greatest grace which God can give me. 

(15) Our Lord s Example. I will frequently think of the 
example of Jesus, scoffed at, mocked, spit upon, insulted 
in every way. 



204 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

(16) Prayer. I will ask God ceaselessly for the virtue of 
humility, in my prayers, rosaries, and Communions, in 
voking with that intent the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the 
Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, my good Angel, my patron 
Saints. I will practise numerous acts of self-denial with 
the same intention. 

(17) Penalties. I will examine myself twice daily with 
regard to humility, and will punish myself by some act 
of penance whenever during the day I find myself trans 
gressing. 

Way of Attaining to Perfect Obedience. 

223. (i) To Obey for God. To say often to myself : " It 
is God Himself Who commands." To think of heaven 
open, and God Himself giving me such or such an order. 
When the hour comes for fulfilling any obligation or duty 
of my state, or when a superior speaks to me, to say, 
" This is God s will. Fiat voluntas tua." 

(2) To Obey Promptly. Not to delay a minute ; to leave 
my work half done immediately the bell rings (if in a 
house which is subject to a Rule) or at the first word from 
my superiors ; to forestall the orders and carry out the 
wishes of my superiors as soon as I become aware of them. 

(3) To Obey Always. To propose to myself this motive 
of obedience in all my actions. To rise by obedience, to 
work, to eat and drink and to pray by obedience, to go to 
recreation, for my walks, to confession, to the Holy Table, 
etc., by obedience. 

(4) To Obey Simply, Blindly. Never to argue anything 
with my superiors, never to utter a word against authority, 
never to dispute an order, even interiorly. 

(5) To Obey Joyfully. Never to manifest any repug 
nance. To compel myself to appear cheerful and happy, 
no matter how hard the order that I have to carry out. 

(6) To Obey like Jesus Christ. Constantly to remind my 
self how Jesus chose to be obedient to Joseph, to Mary, 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 205 

during thirty years, to His Heavenly Father. "It is My 
meat, it is My life," He said, " to do My Father s will." 
" He became obedient unto death, even the death of the 
cross." 

(7) Prayer for Obtaining this Obedience. To pray daily 
for this virtue to the Sacred Heart, to Mary, to Joseph, 
to my patron Saints and my guardian Angel ; also to offer 
some sacrifice to God daily with the object of obtaining 
this precious grace. 

To take each of these resolutions in succession for 
example, the first on Monday, the second on Tuesday, etc. 
or, what would be better, to take each subject for a week 
in turn. To examine myself at least once daily concerning 
my resolution of the morning. 

The Exercise of Fraternal Charity. 

224. In order to acquire this beautiful virtue, in all 
its perfection, and to conduct myself towards those around 
me like a true Christian, I will keep the following resolu 
tions : 

(1) I will consider them all as brethren, as souls beloved 
by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, called to heaven like 
myself. I will dwell on these thoughts more especially 
when I am tempted to give way to feelings of antipathy, 
jealousy, or revenge. 

(2) I will bear with the failings of others, not calling 
attention to them, and carefully abstaining from every 
kind of criticism and slander. 

(3) I will never carry tales to anyone, especially if it is 
anything likely to give him pain. On the contrary, I will 
strive to make peace everywhere, bringing forward people s 
good qualities, hiding their faults, doing everything to 
lead them to love one another. 

(4) I will treat every one with affection, taking care not 
to grieve anyone, and immediately getting reconciled if I 
have been angry. 



206 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

(5) I will grant all requests made to me, not being afraid 
of giving myself trouble in order to oblige others ; and if 
I am forced to say no, against my will, I will try to make 
my refusal acceptable by kind words. 

(6) Out of affection for those about me I will seek first 
the good of their souls. For this purpose I will pray 
earnestly to God either for them all in general, or more 
particularly for those whom I see standing in great need 
of my prayers. In this latter case I will even offer some 
sacrifices to God, that His grace may more surely descend 
upon the souls who are so dear to our Lord. 

(7) Not satisfied with praying, I will strive to benefit 
them by my example and words. If I see my brethren 
afflicted, I will share their troubles, and console them and 
keep up their courage. Above all, I will give them good 
and salutary advice when a fitting opportunity occurs, 
leading them to avoid offending God, and to practise virtue. 

Detachment and Poverty. 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of 
heaven." MATT. v. 3. 

225. (i) He who is really detached does not regard him 
self as an owner who is free to make either a good or bad 
use of his wealth, but as a poor servant ; all that he has 
having been entrusted to him by his Master, in Whose 
interests alone it may be employed, and owing to this 
Master, who will also be his Judge, an exact account of 
the use to which he shall have put it. 

(2) The goods of which we make use here below are 
either necessary, convenient, or superfluous. The truly 
poor man is satisfied with what is necessary. The merely 
convenient he willingly forgoes, and only procures it when 
it conduces to the performance of the duties of his state. 
Finally, the superfluous he renounces absolutely. These 
principles will be applied to food, furniture, clothes, travel 
ling, etc. 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 207 

(3) The man who is truly poor suffers privation with a 
good grace. When his Divine Master allows him to want 
for necessaries, he gladly endures, as our Saviour did, 
hunger, thirst, cold, heat, labours, fatigue, etc. 

(4) He does not squander indiscriminately the goods 
which God has placed at his disposal. He does not lose 
them, or allow them to deteriorate by his negligence. 

(5) In the Case of Seculars. If the truly poor man is 
economical, it is by no means that he may save up that 
of which he is so careful, but in order to give the more 
abundantly. " Money never stays in his hands, and he is 
always ready to part with it when he comes to the con 
clusion that God demands it of him " (Tronson). 

(6) The obstacle to this holy poverty often springs from 
the fear of want. The truly poor in spirit is full of con 
fidence in Providence, and does not show that excessive 
care for the morrow which our Lord condemns. 

(7) For Regulars. He who has the perfect spirit of 
poverty neither takes nor asks, neither gives nor lends, 
anything without permission. 

Devotion to our Blessed Lady. 

226. This probation may be made during the month of 
May. We divide the subject under four heads one for 
each week and this time the form chosen is that of 
questions for self-examination. 

(i) Confidence. The more confidence we have in Mary, 
the more devout we are to her. Have I had a boundless 
confidence in my good Mother ? Have I realized that the 
true child of Mary is sure of salvation, sure even of sanctifi- 
cation ? Have I looked upon devotion towards her as one 
of the most powerful means of advancement in piety ? 
What have I done specially to-day to augment my confi 
dence ? I might have meditated upon her greatness, 
recalled her benefits, read some work written in her honour. 
Finally, have I asked God to increase my devotion and 



208 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

my trust in my heavenly Mother ? Have I made use of 
any of these means ? 

(2) Filial Affection. Have I dealt with her as a child 
with his mother, telling her all that concerns me, confiding 
my joys, troubles, anxieties, and desires to her, speaking 
to her of my failings, so that she may help me to correct 
them ; of the virtues which I need, in order that she may 
help me to acquire them ? 

(3) Unwavering Devotion. Have I had recourse to her 
on all occasions, undertaking no new thing without recom 
mending it to her ? Have I offered her my work, that she 
may offer it herself to Jesus ? In the same way, have I 
offered all my actions to her ? The Blessed Louis 
Grignon de Montfort earnestly advises us to offer every 
thing to Mary, and declares that this practice is an in 
fallible secret for arriving at a high perfection. Have I 
particularly invoked her assistance before Confession and 
Communion, begging her to lead me, as it were, by the 
hand in these two great and holy actions ? Above all, 
have I had recourse to her in my temptations ? 

(4) Pious Practices in her Honour. How have I paid 
my daily tribute of homage to this dear Mother, and how 
have I recited the prayers in her honour the Rosary, the 
Memorare, the Angelus, etc. ? Do I sometimes make 
novenas to her, in order to obtain the graces necessary to 
me some virtue, for instance, of which I feel more specially 
in need ? Have I joined some acts of mortification to my 
prayers, so as to make these novenas more efficacious, 
and to honour Mary more ? Have I not been inconstant 
in my devotion towards this dear Mother, sometimes having 
recourse to her eagerly, then forgetting her, and entirely 
neglecting to pray to her ? 

227. These examples wiU be sufficient to explain this 
system of direction by means of probations. It is a good 
plan to take these different probations at intervals 
making them last a month, for example, then leaving an 
interval of one or two months between the one just com. 



PROBATIONS ON VARIOUS VIRTUES 209 

pleted and the next. In these intervals we may apply our 
selves especially to an exact and perfect practice of our 
Rule, and make this regularity the subject of our particular 
examinations. 

Finally, we may recommence the cycle, which, by reason 
of the intervals left between the different probations, will 
have lasted several years. At the end of two or three years 
it will not be amiss to return to the study of each one of 
these virtues, which are the foundations of the spiritual life. 

Further, according to the advice of St. Francis of Sales 
(Devout Life, iii. i), we might choose the virtue for which 
we feel most aptitude or attraction, or of which we most 
feel the need, and spend a longer time over it. 

228. Here we see a complete method, which certainly 
has its advantages, and which has produced good results 
in a number of souls. It is quite true, also, that it would 
be a mistake to compel every one without distinction to 
follow such a rigid method. Many souls, too, would rebel. 1 
Indeed, such a systematic plan of sanctifkation presupposes 
a real good- will. Souls which are still in the purgative 
life, and even many Christians in the illuminative life, 
would not have the constancy of purpose to accept this 
kind of direction, and by wishing to impose it we should 
run the risk of disheartening them instead of promoting 
their advancement. 

As for those ardent souls who are capable of prolonged 
perseverance, another difficulty often presents itself the 
action of the Holy Spirit, Who illumines them as to their 

1 " There are," says Father Surin, " directors who get an idea and a 
plan into their heads, which they think much of, and henceforth 
apply it to all the souls which come to them, thinking that they 
will do something great if they can bring them into line with this 
idea. So they have no other object or purpose than that of carrying 
out what they have imagined, like one who should wish to give the 
same kind of clothes to all, whether they are big or little ;" or, as 
the same author says elsewhere, " like those who have only one kind 
of salve for every wound " (Spiritual Catechism, vol. ii., part iii., 
chap. ii.). 

VOL. I. 14 



210 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

needs, communicating to them certain attractions to which 
we must pay great heed, lest a purely human direction be 
substituted for that which is Divine. Who will not agree 
with those wise words which the Ven. Fr. Libermann 
wrote to a young priest ? " Regard it as a fundamental 
principle of direction that the person directed must not be 
cramped or too closely hedged about. Too many rules 
must not be prescribed. No rigid system must be fol 
lowed in the spiritual life, or some souls will suffer. I 
regard it as essential in direction that we should allow 
perfect freedom to the action of grace, while we distinguish 
false attractions from the true, and hinder souls from 
starting aside or exceeding the proper bounds with regard 
to these attractions " (Letter dated January 10, 1844). 

229. For beginners who are scarcely conscious of these 
particular attractions the part played by the director is 
necessarily greater. At the beginning of a life of piety 
the direction requires to be more detailed, more minute ; 
but as the soul advances the action of the Holy Spirit 
becomes more felt, and care must be taken not to oppose it. 

Listen to St. Francis of Sales, writing to a Superior of 
the Visitation : " The Directory of the Novitiate proposes 
many exercises, it is true, and it is good and fitting that at 
the beginning the mind should be kept steady and occupied. 
But when in course of time souls have become somewhat 
habituated to this multitude of interior acts, and are 
becoming shaped, their rough edges rounded and their 
spiritual torpor dispelled, then all these exercises can be 
merged in one exercise of greater simplicity either the 
love of complaisance, or the love of benevolence, or the love 
of confidence, or of the union and reunion of the heart 
to the will of God so that this multiplicity transforms 
itself into unity. 

" And, further, if even in the novitiate there is found some 
soul which fears to subject its mind to the prescribed exer 
cises, always provided that this fear does not proceed from 
caprice, presumption, disdain, or chagrin, it is for the 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 211 

prudent mistress to conduct it by another way, although 
ordinarily this one is useful, as experience shows " (Letter 
dated February 22, 1820). 

230. It is more especially when they have arrived at the 
unitive life, as St. Francis of Sales points out, that souls 
soon feel a distaste for an over-minute and systematic direc 
tion. The contemplative soul is commonly drawn to the 
simple presence of God and a sweet and loving union with 
Him. Meditation upon some particular virtue would be 
a great burden to it. It willingly discards all that multi 
plicity of exterior practices which aided it before and to 
which it was so attached, just as we leave the ladder when 
we have reached the top l and it has served its purpose. 
The more it advances the more it simplifies itself ; in 
clinations, thoughts, affections, and acts, all concentrate 
themselves more and more in the desire, the love, and the 
accomplishment of the Divine will alone. 2 

If, then, in the process of this spiritual training by pro 
bations the persons directed must not be allowed by caprice 
or laziness to break off the exercises suggested to them, 
regard must nevertheless be had to the usual dispositions 
of advanced souls, and these must be allowed more lati 
tude, so as not to turn them away from the path marked 
out for them by God. 



CHAPTER V 
DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 

PRELIMINARY REMARKS. 

231. IN the preceding chapter we have shown how neces 
sary it is for the devout soul to follow the direction of the 
Holy Spirit faithfully. " All our perfection depends upon 

1 Cf. Libermann, Letter of August 19, 1835. 

2 Cf. Grou, Manuel des dmes interieures : de la simplicity. 

142 



212 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

this fidelity, and we may say that the whole of our spiritual 
life consists in watching the ways and movements of the 
Spirit of God in our souls, and in strengthening our will 
in the determination to follow them, making use of all the 
exercises of prayer, reading, Sacraments, the practice of the 
Christian virtues and of good works, for this purpose " 
(Father Lallemant, Spiritual Doctrine, 4 principe, chap. ii.). 

So all the means of sanctification to which we referred 
have in reality no other end than the emancipation of the 
human heart from the thousand fetters which prevent it 
from hearing and responding to God s call. The devout 
soul, by dint of laudable exertion, has overcome the chief 
obstacles to its progress in the purgative life. It has begun 
to experience those sweet operations of grace, those con 
solations of devotion, which are, as it were, the forerunners 
of a closer, more intimate direction of the Holy Spirit. 
But there are still causes which may retard its advance 
ment, and these usually are a more or less pronounced 
tendency to dissipation of mind, the love of comfort and 
of self. When these have been faithfully resisted by re 
collection, mortification, patience, and humility, the Divine 
action, finding fewer barriers, is able to operate with more 
freedom, and the inspirations, except during moments of 
trial and aridity, will become more numerous and more 
urgent. 

232. It is evident that he who is faithful to these in 
spirations, who allows himself to be guided in all things 
by the Spirit of God, will have good cause to congratulate 
himself upon his wise conduct. 1 " O God, Theotimus, if 

1 An ancient author has said that three months of perfect fidelity 
to all the inspirations of the Holy Spirit will establish the soul in a 
state that will certainly lead it to perfection. And Father Pergmayer, 
S.J. (in his little work upon the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, treating of 
purity of heart, p. 106), says : " Only make the experiment for 
three months of never refusing God anything, and you will see what 
a change will be brought about, and how the whole interior being 
will be altered." 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 213 

we received the heavenly inspirations in the full extent of 
their power, how speedily should we make great progress 
in holiness !" (St. Francis of Sales, The Love of God, ii. n). 

" Our greatest evil lies in our opposition to God s designs 
and our resistance to His inspirations, for we either will 
not hear them; or, having heard them, we reject them ; or, 
having received them, t we defile them with a thousand 
imperfections of attachments, self-complacency, and self- 
satisfaction. 

" And yet the principal point in the spiritual life so con 
sists in disposing ourselves for grace and purity of heart that, 
if two persons consecrated themselves simultaneously to 
the service of God, and one gave himself up entirely to 
good works and the other to the purification of his heart 
and the casting off of all that was opposed to grace within 
him, this latter would arrive at perfection twice as soon as 
the first " (Lallemant, loc. cit. 9 6). 

233. But can we always recognize the inspirations of 
God, and are we not sometimes liable to be mistaken ? 
The angel of darkness may transform himself into an angel 
of light, and the creations of our imagination are not always 
distinguishable at first sight from the holy thoughts inspired 
by the Spirit of God. Spiritual writers have, therefore, 
regarded what they call the rules for the discernment of 
spirits as an important point in spiritual science. The 
spirits which influence the heart of man are the Divine 
Spirit, the human spirit, and the diabolic spirit. We will 
speak first of the diabolic spirit. 



SECTION I. MARKS OF THE DIABOLIC SPIRIT. 

234. How, then, may we recognize the suggestions of 
the devil ? " We must carefully examine," says St. 
Ignatius, " the succession and the trend of our thoughts. 
If the beginning, the middle, and the end everything 
about them is good, and tending purely to good, it is a 



214 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

proof that they emanate from our good angel ; but if in 
the train of thoughts suggested to us we end by finding 
something bad or distracting, or not so good as we had 
intended, or if these thoughts enfeeble the soul, disturb 
and trouble it by taking away its former peace, tran 
quillity, and repose, it is a clear sign that they proceed 
from the wicked spirit, the enemy of our progress and of 
our eternal salvation " (Discernment of Spirits, second 
week, rule 5). 

We may, then, recognize the action of the devil by any 
one of the following signs : 

(1) Either the object proposed is bad. 

(2) Or the method is faulty, the acts to which we feel an 
inclination being rash or indiscreet. 

(3) Or the motive presented to the mind is vicious. We 
are led to act, for example, for the satisfaction of pride or 
vanity, or some other failing. 

(4) Or the principle is evil, the sentiment from which 
the inclination proceeds is reprehensible ; we form such a 
determination under the influence of a feeling of bitterness, 
impatience, or cowardice. 

(5) Or, finally, the results are pernicious, the diabolical 
suggestions producing trouble and anxiety, and tending to 
discouragement and despair. 

With regard to this last rule, let us note that a troubled 
mind and anxiety are a sign of the devil s operation, but 
this is only in souls which are in God s grace, for, as 
St. Ignatius rightly remarks, " As for those people who 
go from mortal sin to mortal sin, the usual conduct of the 
enemy is to suggest apparent pleasures to them, filling 
their imaginations with sensual enjoyment and delights, 
so as to keep his hold over them, and plunge them further 
into their vices and sins. The good Spirit, on the other 
hand, acts in an opposite manner. He excites trouble and 
remorse in their conscience, making them conscious of the 
reproaches of their reason " (Discernment of Spirits, first 
week, rule i). 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 215 

235. As soon as we recognize the voice of our enemy, we 
must meet him with disdain and contempt, casting aside 
his propositions without considering them for an instant. 
This is one of St. Francis of Sales most frequent counsels. 
" Hold no parley with your enemy, neither answer him a 
single word, unless it be that which our Lord answered 
him, and with which He confounded him : Get thee behind 
me, Satan. Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and Him 
only shalt thou serve " (Devout Life, iv. 7). " Eve, think 
ing to argue, was lost " (Letter to St. Jane Frances, Oc 
tober 14, 1604). " As for those little temptations which, 
like flies and gnats, come and pass before our eyes, and 
sometimes bite us on the cheek, sometimes on the nose 
for it is impossible to be quite free from their importunity 
our best manner of resistance is not to let ourselves be 
tormented by them, for they cannot harm us, although 
they may be annoying, provided that we are fully resolved 
in our wish to serve God " (Devout Life, iv. 9). " Our 
enemy is a loud barker, but do not disturb yourself at all, 
for I know that he cannot bite. Laugh at him, and let 
him do his worst. Do not fight with him. Give him the 
cold shoulder ; it is all beneath your notice. He has 
clamoured and made a great hubbub round about the 
Saints, but for all that there they are at the place which 
he has lost, the wretch " (Letter to St. Jane Frances, prob 
ably in 1605). 

This does not mean that we must not fight in times of 
temptation, or resort to prayer, resisting with all our might, 
either by thinking of something else or protesting our 
fidelity to God. 1 But we must carry on this contest with 
out losing our confidence and coolness, or we shall lose the 
victory. " If you had not become anxious after the first 
skirmish," wrote St. Francis of Sales, again to a lady, " but 
had taken your courage in both hands, you would not 
have fallen at the second. Moreover, why get sad ? Re 
member this, so long as the temptation is grievous to you, 
1 Cf. Devout Life, iv. 7. 



216 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

there is nothing to fear. For why does it distress you, 
save because it is against your will ?" (Letter of February 18, 
1605). 

And not only must we not permit ourselves to be troubled 
by the suggestions of the wicked angel, but an even greater 
perfection lies in not being too desirous of being freed from 
them. " With regard to your old temptations," her saintly 
director wrote to St. Jane Frances, " do not be so anxious 
for deliverance from them. I should be sorry to have you 
voluntarily desiring this unnecessary and perhaps hurtful 
peace " (Letter of July 24, 1607). 

Finally, we must know how to extract good from evil, 
and this is what hits the devil hardest. " Humble yourself 
greatly, and do not be astonished. The lilies which grow 
amongst thorns are the fairest, and roses near water are 
the most fragrant, and become perfumed with musk. 
What can he know who is never tempted ?" (Letter to 
Mother Fabre, December 15, 1615). 

Thus, humility with regard to ourselves and protestations 
of absolute confidence in God, of immutable fidelity in His 
service, this is what temptation must work in us. If the 
devil by stirring up this mud of the passions which is at 
the bottom of our miserable humanity only succeeds in 
making us more humble, more distrustful of self, and more 
disposed to rely upon God, he will be caught in his own 
snares, and will only assist our progress whilst attempting 
to send us to perdition. 

236. Such are the tactics that we must oppose to the 
devil. It is true that we do not always perceive his 
presence, but we must always be on the watch for him 
when we are in difficulties. In cases of doubt it is by 
distress of mind especially that the devil s work is recog 
nizable. " God has joined happiness and holiness together, 
so that His graces not only sanctify the soul, but also con 
sole it and fill it with peace and sweetness. The sugges 
tions of the devil have just the opposite effect if not at 
first, at any rate, in the end. We may recognize the 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 217 

serpent by his tail that is to say, by the results of his 
operations and the goal to which he leads us." 

All those hypothetical or conditional propositions which 
have no other purpose than that of distressing us, emanate 
from the devil. As, for instance : " Supposing that God 
should abandon me on such an occasion ?" Or, again : 
" If things should turn out in such or such a way, what 
should I do ?" We must not reply to these suggestions 
in any way, or dwell upon these kinds of thoughts, which 
are only suggested to us by our enemy for the purpose of 
destroying our confidence in God, and throwing us into 
anxiety and discouragement " (Father Lallemant, Spiritual 
Doctrine, 4 principe, chap, iv., art. iii.). 

Discouragement, in fact, is the devil s usual mode of 
seducing souls. The majority of souls are lost through 
discouragement. We cannot, therefore, warn them too 
strongly against this danger, or repeat our caution too 
often. This is one of Satan s wiles. God never discouraged 
anyone. Not only is it the case that discouragement 
does not come from God, but it offends Him, since it is 
an act of distrust either of His power or of His infinite 
mercy. 

237. We have pointed out some of the distinctive signs 
of diabolic suggestion, but the temptation may come from 
our nature, and not from the devil. How, then, may it 
be distinguished ? We can recognize the work of nature 
because the effects produced can easily be traced to their 
source. Thus the drunkard will be tempted by nature 
when thirst parches his palate, or when wine, the object 
of his passion, is offered to him. So in temptations against 
purity : if the motions of concupiscence begin in the flesh, 
the temptation would seem to be from nature. 

But when it has no natural cause, when it begins in the 
imagination (for the tempter acts upon our souls especially 
by exciting the imagination), when it comes and then 
suddenly ceases without there being any outward circum 
stance to explain either its sudden onslaught or its unex- 



2i8 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

pected abatement, then, on the contrary, we must assume 
that the devil is the chief author of the temptation. 

It is true that the devil may intervene even when the 
temptation comes from our nature, but his intervention 
is then recognizable by the fact that the effect produced 
far exceeds the scope of the natural cause whence it pro 
ceeds the passion, for instance, being violently excited, 
or the imagination strongly moved, as a result of some 
circumstance of very small importance. 

We believe that a very strong temptation is scarcely 
ever experienced which has not been stirred up by the 
devil, since this roaring lion prowls round about us, watch 
ing for a favourable occasion to devour us. Moreover (and 
this is why we do not insist further on this point), if the 
temptation is due to nature alone, the proper method of 
dealing with it would be as we have described to resist 
vigorously, but calmly, and without anxiety. 1 

238. A no less dangerous class of temptation is that 
which presents itself under the guise of something good. 
We see souls forming grand projects, wishing to make vows 
or to accomplish extraordinary acts, to which they say 
they are led by the Spirit of God. They give themselves 
up to frightful austerities, and yet in all this they are but 
the sport of the devil, or at least of an over-excited imagina 
tion. In doubtful cases the signs of delusion are those 
which we have pointed out at the beginning of this chapter : 
imprudence, indiscretion, or absurdity in the actions, or 
obstinacy and pride in the subjects. Humility and 
obedience are the touchstones by which we can dis 
tinguish the Divine inspirations from these false counter 
feits. 

We shall not return to this point again. In speaking 
of obedience to the voice of God, an attraction for 

1 " It matters little," says St. Bernard (in Cantic. Serm., xxxii. 6) 
" whether we know whence the evil comes, provided we know that 
it is there. The essential thing is to watch and pray, that we may 
not give way to it, from whatever side it may come." 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 219 

mortification, etc., we must always be understood to be 
referring to real and properly tested inspirations and 
attractions. 



SECTION II. MARKS OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT, PURELY 
NATURAL INCLINATIONS AND CONCEPTIONS. 

239. Apart from the devil s suggestions and the ob 
viously evil inclinations of nature, human activity may 
produce other movements and tendencies in the soul which 
it is important for us to discern, in order that we may 
not confound them with the Divine inspirations. 

We will class under one head, as proceeding either wholly 
or in part from nature, first, purely rational inclinations ; 
second, good but hasty movements ; and, finally, feelings 
of melancholy and sadness, and scruples which are doubt 
less encouraged by the enemy, but which usually spring 
from the natural disposition namely, a tendency to gloomy 
ideas or weakness of judgment. 

i. Impulses which are Good, but Purely Rational. 

240. When the soul gives itself up to a good impulse 
by some consideration which is purely natural, the action 
is good, but it does not merit eternal life ; or at least, if 
we admit with St. Thomas (vide supra, No. 43) that in a just 
man there is always a virtual intention of referring every 
thing to God, the merit of this action is less than it might 
have been. It is a serious loss for the Christian soul. A 
Director must make it plain that simply natural virtues, 
or virtues in which faith has such a slight part, are in 
sufficient, almost valueless, for heaven. He must advise 
his penitent to act with more exalted intentions and from 
Christian motives. 

It is so reasonable, so right, and so beautiful to act for 
God in all things, always to seek to do His will. We can- 



220 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

not, therefore, try too hard to inculcate in souls this 
maxim of St. Paul : " Do all for the glory of God " 
(Omnia in gloriam Dei facite). 

2. Eagerness. 

241. Actions in which nature works alone and inde 
pendently of grace are particularly common in imperfect 
souls. 1 In devout and fervent Christians these purely 
natural acts are rarer, but nature and grace are often 
mingled in their actions, and this detracts from their 
merits, and may even become a danger. To employ 
St. Paul s language, in the edifice of the Christian life the 
gold is intermixed with straw and hay, vile substances 
which must be purified by fire. 

It is in the practice of good and the pursuit of virtue 
that we encounter this human activity (which we call 
eagerness) together with the movements inspired by grace. 
While grace enlightens the soul with regard to the urgent 
reasons in favour of perfection, nature also finds a say ; 
it enjoys in advance both the esteem that it will inspire and 
the good opinion that it will have of itself. 

It busies itself and makes haste, and in its indiscreet 
activity wishes to go further and more quickly than the 
action of grace. 

Whilst grace inspires a horror of sin and a wholesome 
fear of offending God, nature falls into an excessive and 
unreasonable anxiety. Grace causes vigilance, but it 
does not in the least destroy the holy liberty of God s 
children ; nature engenders constraint and interior com 
pulsions. Grace, after a fault committed, excites re 
pentance, and gives birth in the heart to a sincere, 
profound, but trustful and peaceful sorrow. Nature, 
on the other hand, conceives an impatient chagrin full of 
bitterness, which troubles and depresses it. 

1 We speak here of deliberate actions, for we have not to trouble 
about instinctive and indeliberate acts. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 221 

We must make no mistake, therefore. These anxieties, 
this eagerness in the search after virtue, come not from 
God, but from ourselves and our self-love. And it is just 
the same with that uneasiness and vexation which we 
feel after our faults : self-esteem is the cause of them. 
" How is it that, if any imperfection or sin befalls us, we 
are astonished, troubled, or impatient ? Doubtless it is 
because we think ourselves good, resolute, and strong ; and 
so, when we see that we are nothing of the sort, and that 
we have failed, and have been mistaken, we are conse 
quently troubled, offended, and uneasy ; while if we 
realized what we really are, instead of wondering at our 
falls we should marvel that we ever stand upright 1 
(St. Francis of Sales, Letter to the Abbess of Puits d Orbe, 
April, 1604). 

242. It is easy to understand that all these vexations and 
anxieties, all this eagerness, do not bring about the desired 
result, but, on the contrary, they prevent it. Anxiety 
proceeds from our unruly desire to be delivered from the 
present evil or to secure the good that we aspire to. 
Nevertheless, there is nothing which so aggravates evil 
and impedes the good as anxiety and eagerness. Birds 
fail to escape from the nets and traps in which they are 
taken because, rinding themselves caught, they fight and 
struggle wildly to get away, and so entangle themselves 
the more. When, therefore, you are pursued by a desire 

1 " When humility is true, doubtless the soul recognizes its 
lowness ; it groans at seeing itself so wretched, it is well persuaded of 
its own wickedness, and understands that these feelings it has of 
itself are only the simple truth. But this sight causes it neither 
trouble nor anxiety, neither darkness nor dryness ; quite on the 
contrary, it produces peace, joy, sweetness, and light to the soul. 
Even the pain it feels consoles it, because it understands that it is 
well for it to feel this pain ; it sees that this pain is a great grace of 
God. If it groans at having offended God, on the other hand, the 
thought of Divine mercy dilates its heart. The light which enlightens 
it covers it with confusion true, but it also makes it praise the 
Lord for having borne with it so long " (St. Teresa, Life, chap. xxx.). 



222 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

to be delivered from some evil or to attain to some good, 
before all things keep your mind calm and tranquil ; 
compose your judgment and your will, and then pursue 
your aim quietly and gently, adopting in an orderly way 
the means which are most suitable. And when I say 
quietly, I do not mean negligently, but without haste, 
disturbance, and uneasiness ; otherwise, instead of attain 
ing your end, you will spoil everything, and will embarrass 
yourself still more " (Devout Life, iv. 2). 

243. The way to arrive at this tranquillity, this sweet 
and peaceful self-possession, is to forget self and rely much 
more upon God than on ourselves. And when the eye of 
the soul turns inwardly, despite itself, it is for the purpose 
of accepting its abjection, and because it does not wish 
to outstrip the action of grace. " You must not be 
searching into your heart to see if it is pleasing to Him, 
but, rather, whether His heart is dear to you. And if 
you look at His heart, it will be impossible but that it 
shall satisfy you, for it is so gentle, so sweet, so conde 
scending, so loving towards its pitiful creatures, pro 
vided that they acknowledge their wretchedness, so gracious 
towards the unhappy, so good towards the penitent. And 
who would not love that royal heart so paternally maternal 
towards us ?" (St. Francis of Sales, Letter, February 18, 
1618). 

" You think much too much about yourself," the Venerable 
Libermann wrote to a seminarist. " It is one of the things 
which hinder you greatly in overcoming your failings. Why 
do you always worry and distress yourself because you 
find it hard to conquer your defects ? It is pure pride. 
God does not absolutely require that you should conquer 
them, but He wills you to have the desire to do so, and 
that you should strive thereto in order to be pleasing in 
His eyes. Labour, then, to this end, gently and quietly, 
and be at peace, putting all your confidence in Him alone ; 
bear all the failings which it shall please God to allow for 
the time being patiently and with tranquillity. If you 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 223 

distress yourself and grow impatient, it comes from your 
wishing to be delivered for other and bad reasons for 
example, in order to be more estimable and more esteemed, 
etc. But so long as you get impatient in this way you 
will not conquer them " (Letter, September 5, 1837). 

244. The masters of the spiritual life are unanimous in 
advising us to despise these little anxieties ; all assert that 
it would be harmful to heed them. * Strive, my 
daughters," said St. Teresa, " to understand clearly that 
God does not consider trifles, as you believe, and do not 
allow your soul and your spirit to be hampered by anxieties 
which might cause you to lose great benefits. Having a 
right intention, a will fully determined not to offend God, 
open your heart wide ; otherwise, instead of acquiring 
holiness, you will fall into many imperfections into 
which the devil will push you, and you will not do, either 
for yourself or others, as much good as you might have 
done " (Way of Perfection, chap. xli.). 

St. Francis of Sales advised St. Jane Frances to read 
this passage in the works of " the Blessed Mother Teresa ": 
" It will help you," he said, " to understand clearly what 
I have often told you, that we must not be too punctilious 
in the exercise of virtue : we must attack them freely, 
frankly, and simply, in the old French fashion, with 
liberty of spirit, in good faith, grosso modo ; what I am 
afraid of is the spirit of constraint and melancholy " 
(Letter, written, probably, in 1605). 

Indeed, the Saint in his letters often returns to this 
subject, and his insistence proves how much importance 
he attached to it. " My third commandment is that you 
do as little children do. So long as they feel their mother 
holding them by the sleeve, they go forward boldly, and 
run about, and are not afraid when they are unsteady 
owing to the weakness of their legs. So, while you per 
ceive that God holds you by the good-will and resolution 
to serve Him which He has given you, advance boldly, 
and do not be amazed at the little shocks and stumbles 



224 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

that occur ; and you must not be vexed because of them, 
provided that at intervals you throw yourself into His arms 
and kiss Him with the kiss of charity. Go forward joy 
fully and with open heart as far as you can, and if you 
do not always go joyfully, at least let it be with courage 
and faith " (Letter to a Novice, January 16, 1613). 

He especially objected to see anyone give way after a 
fall to those fits of discouragement which lead to breaking 
off and abandoning everything. " We must not snap the 
strings or cast away the lute when we perceive a discord, 
but rather listen attentively in order to discover whence 
the false note proceeds, and quietly tighten or slacken the 
string, according as the art requires (To a Superior of the 
Visitation, edit. Briday, vol. vi., p. no). 

" Believe me, Philothea," he says in the Devout Life, 
(Book III., chap, ix.), "as the remonstrances of a father, 
made gently and kindly, have much more effect on a child 
with a view to his correction than when he displays anger 
and temper, so when the heart has committed some fault, 
if we correct it with sweet and gentle remonstrance, with 
compassion rather than anger, encouraging it to amend 
ment, its repentance will go much further and penetrate 
deeper than if it repents irritably and tempestuously. 
For my own part, if, for example, I greatly desired not to fall 
into the sin of vanity, and, nevertheless, fell grievously 
into it, I should not thus call my heart to task : Art thou 
not vile and abominable, that, after so many resolutions, 
thou hast allowed thyself to be carried away by vanity ? 
Die, then, of shame ! No longer dare to raise thine eyes 
to heaven, blind, insolent traitor that thou art and dis 
loyal to thy God, and so on. But I should correct it by 
reasoning and compassion, thus : See, now, my poor 
heart, here art thou fallen into that pit from which we have 
so often firmly resolved to escape. Come, let us rise up 
again, and turn our backs on it for ever. Let us entreat 
God s mercy once more, and trust in it, that it will hence 
forth assist us to be more resolute, and so let us return to 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 225 

the path of humility. Courage ! let us be more on our 
guard. ,God will aid us, and we shall yet make headway/ 
And by this reproof I should build up a firm and solid 
resolution never again to fall into that fault, taking 
suitable means to this end, the advice of my director 
especially." 

245. All these counsels point to the same end never to 
yield to an impulse of nature, and in all things to follow 
those of grace alone. There are some ardent hearts who 
especially need firm and constant direction on this point ; 
we note eagerness in every detail of their piety. 

So in the practice of recollection they often do violence 
to themselves in order to combine the sensible presence 
of our Lord with their occupations. They weary them 
selves, and suffer an anguish of heart and tension of spirit, 
instead of practising a gentle and peaceful recollection. 
In the same way, when they experience dryness in their 
prayers, they make astounding eiforts to extract effective 
acts from their hearts, instead of simply abiding before 
God in a disposition of interior love and profound abase 
ment. There are others who, in their examination of 
conscience search into their conduct with exaggerated 
care, in the fear lest something escape them. " With 
regard to your examinations," the Venerable Father Liber- 
mann wrote to a seminarist, " the best plan, I think, is 
to place yourself quietly before God, letting everything 
come from Him alone. When you feel that your heart is 
quite at peace, and in union with God, begin gently to 
direct upon yourself the interior gaze of your soul, so that 
you may see in what you have sinned. I tell you to do 
this gently, for you must not put too much energy and 
eagerness into the search for your faults " (Letter, August 19, 

1835). 

But a still more frequent failing, which may become 
exceedingly harmful to spiritual progress, is the natural 
ardour, the eager activity, that we bring to the ac 
complishment of the duties of our state. As our object 

VOL. i. 15 



226 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

is praiseworthy, we are not on our guard against this 
failing, and we expose ourselves to the danger of rejecting 
the guidance of the Spirit of God, and acting henceforth in 
a purely human manner ; while by giving way to our pre 
dilection for certain employments we end by neglecting 
other duties just as urgent, but less agreeable. 

246. An important point should be noted here. In the 
first stage of a devout life, when the soul, which has just 
embarked resolutely upon the service of God, feels all the 
ardours of its new-born piety, these generous and powerful 
flights come in the ordinary course. They should be 
directed rather than repressed ; the beauty, the sub 
limity, of the virtue to which it feels so ardently attracted 
must be extolled, and a deep and strong desire to obtain it 
must be inspired in the soul. 

But violent things are not lasting. When the soul is 
completely won over and firmly resolved, it will require 
to be set free from all its precipitation, agitation, uneasy 
and eager activity. " Your great mortification," wrote 
the Venerable Libermann to the director of a seminary in 
(1839, Letter 187), " must consist in taming and moderating 
your over-activity and vivacity of mind and heart ; in 
aiming to do all for God, but gently, suavely, and peace 
fully ; never giving in to the violent emotion which carries 
you away, even in the impulses of devotion, which must 
be tamed down, quieted and moderated, when they show 
signs of violence and impetuosity of spirit. You must 
never follow an interior movement which does not leave 
your soul at rest in God s presence, which does not draw 
you and unite you solely and peacefully to God. . . . God 
attracts us powerfully, but always in perfect peace." 

If the person directed carries this excessive impetuosity 
even into his vocal and mental prayers, he must be urged 
to show a greater tranquillity and repose. " We must try 
to check the violence of these outbursts," says St. Teresa, 
" and bring the soul back, little by little, into a state of 
quietness, just as people check the tears of children by 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 227 

giving them something to drink. Reason must hold the 
reins, so that these hasty impulses may be moderated, lest 
any imperfection be mingled therein and they should be 
largely the work of the senses and of nature. Thus the 
soul must be soothed like a little child with a loving caress, 
and brought to love God quietly, and not with impetuous 
violence. This soul should set about confining all its 
affection inwardly, without allowing it to diffuse itself, 
like a vessel which boils up and overflows on every side 
because fuel has been indiscreetly heaped upon the fire " 
(Life, xxix.). 

247. From this restless activity of nature another evil, 
again, often springs. This is the desire to be elsewhere 
than where God has willed, seeking perfection outside the 
ways in which God has set us. "It is," says St. Francis 
of Sales, " the evil of evils amongst souls of good- will that 
they always wish to be what they cannot be, and that 
which they can be they do not desire to be " (Letter to a 
Nun, April 3, 1606). 

248. Such, then, is over-eagerness, a very common 
failing with ardent souls. " I have suffered from this 
malady," St. Francis of Sales once wrote to St. Jane 
Frances (Letter, November 21, 1604). And we see that at 
the outset of his direction the Saint regarded it as one of 
his principal duties to forewarn the generous souls amongst 
his penitents against this natural and imperfect activity. 
In fact, the less nature is allowed to act, the more powerful 
will be the operations of grace. 



3. Scruples. 

249. There is a fear of offending God inspired by grace, 
but in fearful souls, or those of defective judgment, this 
is often accompanied by an unreasonable fear, which espies 
evil where none exists, and produces the most distressing 
anguish. This tendency to scrupulosity is a deplorable 
one, and may be exceedingly injurious. Scruples turn us 

152 



228 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

aside from vocal prayer, give a distaste for mental prayer, 
estrange us from the Sacraments, weaken our faith in God, 
destroy all strength and energy, and finally, by means of 
the clouds and the anxieties that they produce, and 
especially by the discouragement they provoke, they not 
only prevent all progress, but they engender many faults 
and lead insensibly to the destruction of piety. 1 

The scrupulous do not take enough heed of the dangers 
which thus threaten them ; they must be enlightened, so 
that, becoming desirous of obtaining a great freedom of 
heart, they may ask it of God by their fervent prayers, and 
make sincere attempts to rid themselves of this unfortunate 
inclination. 

250. After prayer, the best, or rather, the only, remedy 
we quote St. Alphonsus is obedience. " Above all," 
continues the holy Doctor (Praxis Confessarii, No. 95), 
" let the director thoroughly persuade his scrupulous 
penitents of these two truths, that they have nothing to 
fear by obeying, and that they have everything to fear 
by not doing so. He will frequently remind them of the 
words of Jesus Christ : Qui vos audit, me audit (He that 
heareth you, heareth Me). He will point out to them 
again how they insult God by distrusting His word, 
doubting His goodness, and disobeying His recommenda 
tions. He will cite to them the authority of all the Doctors 
and Saints." St. Alphonsus quotes on this subject 
St. Bernard, St. Antony, St. Francis of Sales, St. Philip 
Neri, St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius, etc. 
All state that an obedient soul has never perished, and 
that disobedience in this matter may cause the greatest 
evils, hindering all progress, ruining devotion, and leading 
to despair. He will be very gentle when they have been 
obedient, very severe when they have been insubordinate 
(id., Theolog. Mor., li. 16). And the obedience to be 
exacted is a blind obedience. " No arguing," he will tell 

1 This is what happened, notably, to Luther. In his religious 
youth he was a prey to many scruples. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 229 

them. " Your imagination is insane ; one does not argue 
with madmen. Besides, the devil employs all his arts 
to bewilder your poor spirit ; he overwhelms you by 
the more or less specious arguments which he puts before 
you. He perplexes you just as he pleases, and then he 
laughs at you when he sees that you have listened to him 
and believed him/* 

Thus, the scrupulous person must not parley with his 
imagination, or try to solve the difficulties which crowd 
before his mind, or weigh objections to decisions that have 
been come to. He must be satisfied with repeatedly 
making short, resolute acts of faith concerning the truths 
which have been expounded to him by his confessor. God 
is a Father of infinite goodness. He does not punish 
involuntary thoughts ; on the contrary, He rewards those 
to whom these doubts are displeasing. He has insti 
tuted confession for the peace of souls, and not for their 
torture. His Church expressly teaches that a simple con 
fession, made in good faith, suffices to wash out the gravest 
sins, even although the penitent has forgotten to accuse 
himself of them. 

Relying upon these truths, the confessor must forbid 
any going back on the past without express permission 
on his part. It is better, St. Alphonsus teaches, that the 
confession should be wanting in integrity than that the 
penitent should be entangled in scruples. He will com 
mand him to banish remorselessly, as we banish impure 
thoughts, all the anxieties, disquietudes, and discourage 
ments which attack the spirit ; never to heed them in 
practice, never, for instance, to deprive himself of Com 
munion unless he can swear, before God, that he is guilty 
of mortal sin. 

He will forbid all reflection that is calculated to lead 
to distress of mind, even those thoughts of hell and God s 
judgments which in themselves are excellent, but which 
are injurious for the scrupulous. These persons should 
meditate only upon the goodness of God, His infinite mercy ; 



230 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

the incomprehensible love of the Heart of Jesus, His 
burning desire to save souls ; the power of Mary, the 
tenderness of this dear Mother for sinners, etc. 

Finally, he will advise him to be cheerful, affable, and 
pleasant to everybody, and not to allow any of his melan 
choly to appear. " Beware of over-eagerness, melancholy, 
and scruples. You would not offend God for anything in the 
world ; that is quite enough in order to live happily " (Letter of 
St. Francis of Sales to St. Jane Frances, June 24, 1604). 

251. The director will render the greatest service to his 
scrupulous penitents by obliging them, despite their foolish 
anxiety, to communicate without receiving absolution. 
They are, indeed, obeying a selfish feeling, and not a desire 
to please God, when they urgently seek for absolution. 
They hope by this means to see their troubles ended, and 
in their cowardice they prefer thus to terminate their 
distress rather than make an act of obedience at all costs. 
When, on the other hand, in submission to their director s 
decisions, they trample their distress underfoot, they 
practise excellently, although without delight and consola 
tion, their faith, their confidence in God, and their love. 
Faith tells them that God speaks to them by the mouth of 
their director, therefore they make an act of faith in obey 
ing. They make an act of confidence by relying upon the 
Divine mercy and goodness. Finally and especially, they 
make an act of love. " I will obey," they say, " whatever 
it may cost me, since my obedience is pleasing to the 
Heart of my God. I shall doubtless suffer, I shall endure 
real tortures, but God will be pleased, and that is sufficient 
for me." By these hard- won victories they obtain very 
precious graces ; little by little they master the imagina 
tion, and in the long run they acquire peace for the soul. 
God, who excels in bringing good out of evil, will make 
this severe trial conduce to their greater advantage ; the 
peace which they have acquired will be deep and lasting, 
and they will serve God with a profounder and more 
perfect confidence. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 231 



SECTION III. MARKS OF DIVINE INSPIRATION. 

I. Divine Inspiration in General. 

252. " The operations proper to God and to His angels 
in their action on a soul is to banish the trouble and sad 
ness which the enemy strives to introduce, and to instil 
true happiness and real spiritual joy. On the other hand, 
the office of the enemy is to combat that joy and interior 
consolation by seeming reasons, subtleties, and continual 
illusions. 

" The good angel is wont gently, lightly and sweetly to 
touch the souls of those who progress daily in virtue ; his 
action is, so to speak, like a drop of water softly pene 
trating into a sponge. The wicked angel, on the other 
hand, comes violently, with noise and disturbance, like 
water dashing against a stone " (St. Ignatius, Spiritual 
Exercises, "Discernment of Spirits"). 

If the inspiration to do or to abstain from doing has 
not been preceded by any consideration or reflection, if it 
has presented itself to the mind suddenly, when we were 
not thinking of it, if it was not in any way suggested, we 
may presume that it comes from God. 1 Nature does not 
proceed so abruptly. In that phenomenon, so habitual 
to the human understanding, which modern psychologists 
call association of ideas, there is always a connection 
between the two successive ideas. They have always 

1 This is only a presumption, and not a sufficient guide to constitute 
an absolute rule of conduct. St. Teresa, speaking of interior voices 
(Sixth Mansion, chap, iii.), says that we may recognize by various 
signs that they do not emanate from the imagination, and by this 
amongst others. Often the soul is not thinking about the thing 
which is spoken, and the inspiration comes, as it were, at the wrong 
time it may be when we are engaged in conversation. Or, again, 
this interior voice corresponds to thoughts which are merely passing 
through the mind, or which have passed through it before, and often 
to things which we have never thought about at all. They cannot, 
then, be the work of the imagination. 



232 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

some bearing on each other, and the most apparently 
incoherent reverie is by no means without some natural 
sequence. With regard to the devil, he can only act 
directly upon the senses, either internal or external. In 
order to affect the will he either proposes some object to 
the imagination or he stirs up the passions. 1 He may, it is 
true, act suddenly, but, as we have said, the tempter is easily 
recognized by the trouble and uneasiness that he causes. 

The Divine operation, therefore, and the Divine opera 
tion alone, affects the will directly. When God operates 
in this way upon the will, and human action does not come 
and interfere with the Divine action, the impulse felt is a 
gentle one, tending to God rather than to the object con 
cerned, and the spirit remains at peace, or, at least, its 
action is calm and temperate. When, on the other 
hand, the motion comes from nature or the devil, the 
other faculties are directly affected. The imagination is 
enkindled, the intelligence becomes active, ideas follow 
one another in quick succession, arguments are abundant, 
and the will, thus excited, pursues the object of its desire 
inflexibly and often obstinately. 

253. Such are the principal rules given by ascetic writers 
for the discernment of the Divine inspirations. It is fre 
quently necessary for pious souls to question themselves 
in this way : " Such a thought has occurred to me. Must 
I look upon it as an inspiration of grace, and order my 
conduct in conformity to it ?" Before we can answer this 
question satisfactorily, the following points must be con 
sidered : 

(1) Is the work to which we feel drawn good in itself ? 

(2) Is it prudent and wise ? That is, is it not an obstacle 
to some greater good, and will it entail no regrettable 
consequences ? 

(3) Is the intention that is, the good aimed at holy ? 
Are the motives supernatural which urge on our action ? 

1 St. Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises, second and eighth rulse, 
second week. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 233 

For it is the motive which specifies the act, the intention 
which makes the value of the work. 

(4) Does the work breathe of abnegation and charity ? 
That which is of nature always shows a certain self-seeking. 
The surest sign of abnegation is perfect indifference, and 
the disposition to accomplish the Divine will, always and 
in all things, only staying to recognize it in order to come 
to a decision. 

(5) Again, is the inspiration accompanied by peace and 
confidence in God ? " One of the surest signs of the good 
ness of inspirations, and particularly of such as are extra 
ordinary, is the peace and tranquillity of the heart which 
receives them ; for the Divine Spirit is vehement indeed, 
but of a vehemence that is gentle, sweet, and peaceful " 
(Love of God, viii. 12). 

(6) If important matters are concerned, is the attraction 
lasting and constant ? The inclinations, desires, and pro 
jects which are the fruit of the imagination share in the 
essentially mobile and changeable character of that faculty ; 
they pass or are modified very quickly. It is the same 
with the suggestions of the devil, for they come to us, as 
we have said, by the intermediary of the imagination. 

254. St. Jane Frances de Chantal had placed herself 
under the direction of St. Francis of Sales, and being 
anxious to know whether in this matter she had obeyed 
the promptings of grace, or had allowed herself to be led 
by a purely human instinct, she told her doubts to the 
holy Bishop. This is the reply, full of wisdom, which she 
received : " Your choice bears all the marks of a good and 
lawful one. I pray you, therefore, have no more doubts 
about that. The great spiritual movement which has led 
you to it, almost by force, and with great consolation ; the 
consideration which I brought to bear upon it before con 
senting ; the fact that neither you nor I have trusted to 
ourselves in this matter, but to the judgment of your good 
and learned and prudent confessor ; that we have given 
time for the first agitations of your conscience to abate 



234 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

had they been ill-founded ; that the prayers, not of one 
day, nor two, but of several months, preceded the step 
these are undoubtedly infallible signs that it was the will 
of God. The impulses of the wicked spirit or of the human 
spirit are of quite another kind. They are terrible and 
vehement, but have no constancy. Their first whisper into 
the ear of the soul that they are troubling is to listen to 
no advice, or, at least, let it be the advice of some one of 
little or no experience. They hurry us, they wish us to 
complete the contract before going into the details, to content 
ourselves with some brief prayer which only serves as a 
pretext for deciding the most important matters " (Letter, 
October 14, 1604). 

255. This, then, is how we should proceed in affairs of 
moment : As far as possible avoid deciding in a hurry, 
take time for prayer, consult with prudent and virtuous 
people, and allow first impressions time to cool. These, 
if natural, will usually soon fade away. 

Then, in order that we may be more certain of following 
the Divine will, let us discard all natural considerations, 
place ourselves in a state of complete indifference, that we 
may be able to say with all sincerity, like St. Paul : Domine, 
quid me vis facere (Lord, I have only one desire to do 
Thy will). In this way we shall come to act purely for 
God, to obey solely the impulses of the Holy Spirit, and 
our works will be entirely meritorious, and this even in 
cases where nature and grace tend to the same end and 
inspire the same designs. 

256. Upon this point let us hear St. Francis of Sales 
again : " When human prudence is intermingled in our 
designs, it is difficult to silence, for it is marvellously 
importunate, and pushes itself forward eagerly and boldly 
in our affairs, despite ourselves. " 

What must we do, then, so that our intention may be 
purified ? Let us examine whether our design is legiti 
mate, right, and pious. If so, let us propose and plan to 
do it, no longer in obedience to human prudence, but that 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 235 

the will of God may be accomplished therein. "If we 
have a daughter, for example, whom we are moved to 
place in religion by motives of human prudence, touching 
the state of our affairs, we will say to ourselves : Not 
before men, but before God, I say : " O Lord, I wish to 
offer Thee this child, because such as she is she is Thine. 
Although my human prudence incites me to this course, 
yet, Lord, did I but know that it was not also Thy good 
pleasure, despite my interior prudence, I would in no wise 
follow it, rejecting the said prudence which my heart feels, 
but does not desire to consent to, and embracing Thy will, 
which my heart perceives not with the senses, but to 
which it consents with its resolution." And when that 
is done, let the human prudence clamour as it will, for the 
work will not be its offspring, and you can say to it, as the 
Samaritans said to the woman of Samaria when they had 
heard our Lord : We now believe, not for thy saying, for 
we ourselves have heard Him. 

" Human prudence will no longer be responsible. 
Although it may have excited the will to action, yet you 
made the resolution only because you knew that it would 
be pleasing to God. Thus, by the infusion of the Divine 
will the human will is corrected " (Letter to a Lady, ed. 
Briday, vol. i., p. 389). 

257. In matters of less moment it would be a mistake 
to wish for long deliberations. " For unimportant, every 
day actions, in which a mistake is neither of great conse 
quence nor irreparable, what necessity is there to be 
harassed, preoccupied, and busily engaged in making 
important consultations ? Why should I disturb myself 
as to whether God prefers me to say the Rosary or the 
Office of Our Lady, since there is not enough difference 
between them to justify a great inquiry into the matter ; 
whether I shall go to the hospital to visit the sick rather 
than to Vespers ; whether to go to hear a sermon or to a 
church where there is an indulgence ? As a rule, there is 
nothing so apparently remarkable in one more than in the 



236 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

other that we need deliberate greatly about it. We must 
do everything in good faith and simply. As St. Basil used 
to say : Do what seems right freely, so as not to waste 
time and run the risk of anxiety, scruples, and supersti 
tion " (Treatise on the Love of God, viii. 14). 

258. Some of the most frequent causes of preoccupations 
and anxieties to pious souls are the sacrifices which come 
in their way. They are often uncertain whether they 
ought to perform them. On the one hand, they are in 
clined to practise renunciation whenever it is possible ; on 
the other, they ask themselves if it is wise to go against 
their ideas and wishes on all occasions. 

For the solution of these doubts we must refer to the 
rules of St. Ignatius quoted above, and to determine 
whether the remorse which the soul experiences after 
following the leadings of nature is from God or the 
enemy we must first examine into its habitual disposition. 
If it is full of faith, but still over-sensual and un- 
mortified, the Spirit of God is certainly reproaching it for 
its self-love and excessive attachment to its own will, by 
means of these interior inspirations. We shall then be 
responding to the Holy Spirit if we encourage it to mortifi 
cation and sacrifice. But if souls of complete good-will 
are in question, those who work courageously to purify 
themselves from their sins, the inspirations of grace are 
much more sweet and pleasant. " It is then, so to speak, 
as a drop of water penetrating a sponge " (supra, No. 252), 
entering into it without any shocks and, as it were, insen 
sibly. If they feel troubled and uneasy, these troubles, 
these distresses, do not proceed from God : they come 
either from nature or Satan. We must, then, distrust 
them, and not allow ourselves to be drawn beyond the 
bounds of Christian prudence in the way of self-sacrifice. 
Not that we must cease to regret our weaknesses, and give 
up the holy virtue of mortification, but we must practise 
it in accordance with the words of St. Francis of Sales, 
" freely and frankly," humbling ourselves when we 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 237 

fail, and always promising to be more faithful in the 
future. 

259. This is the advice given to Madame de la Maison- 
fort by her two illustrious directors : " Whilst advising me 
to undertake these little sacrifices, he " she is speaking 
of Fenelon " has prescribed their limits, such as to do 
nothing contrary to edification, and more especially 
to charity and secrecy, not even to follow up instincts 
which might lead me to too serious things, and cause me 
to be considered fanatical ; that God is too considerate of 
my weakness to exact such things from me ; and that, 
finally, obedience would protect me from everything 
beyond certain simple actions which can never be obtrusive, 
or unfit me for the work of my vocation. He told me, 
further, that when I do not clearly discern whether it is 
a simple thought of the mind or a movement of grace 
which leads me to these little sacrifices, in any case of 
doubt to decide in my own favour, and to conclude that 
everything which comes to me accompanied by anxiety 
and after-reflection comes from my scrupulosity, and not 
from the Spirit of God at all." 

Bossuet, to whom these lines were addressed, entirely 
approved this doctrine. In another letter to her he wrote : 
" Generally speaking, it is good to do these little things, 
because we thereby obtain grace to do greater. But from 
the moment that anxiety comes with them it is better to 
leave them alone ; peace is preferable to these little sacri 
fices, which may be either made or left unmade." 

260. In short, if the really fervent soul, habituated to 
mortification, occasionally hangs, as it were, in the balance, 
asking itself if it would do wisely to impose upon itself 
some sacrifice, let it not seek to be inexorable concerning 
itself ; this would be to act by natural activity, and not 
by the motions of grace. It should, rather, be in a state 
of indifference, protesting that it wills nothing contrary to 
the Divine will, asking God lovingly to come to the help 
of its weakness, and so await in peace until circumstances 



238 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

indicate the proper time, the proper course of action to 
pursue ; and all this without anxiety and haste, but freely 
and cheerfully. This method of action is more humble, 
and certainly more conformable to that which God re 
quires. 

There are, in fact, holy desires tending only to the glory 
of God, having all the marks of the Divine inspiration, 
which God, nevertheless, does not wish to see accom 
plished. " He wishes us, then, for our own sanctification, 
to profit by the desire alone which He has instilled into us ; 
and this is sometimes productive of more good in our souls 
than if we had realized the desire with the aid of Divine 
grace " (Letter of Venerable Father Libermann, January 24, 
1842). So it is with certain desires of mortification, of 
zeal, of devotion desires emanating from a sincere and 
generous heart, but to which circumstances are opposed, 
or the execution of which is prevented by the action 
of Providence. " What we have to do in such a case is 
to content ourselves with our aspirations before God, 
without absolutely wishing to arrive at their execution, 
waiting for our Lord to make us act. . . . These desires 
(when they come indeed from grace) produce a great 
humiliation, a great self-abasement before God, with very 
great fervour of mind and heart, and in those souls in which 
God acts by love they bring about that languor of love 
which is the source of great perfection." 

If, instead of remaining thus entirely submissive to the 
action of grace, some eagerness is intermingled, if we should 
give way to the restless impulsion of nature, the results 
would be entirely different. " A very common misfor 
tune is that souls, feeling this impression of the desire 
which Divine grace excites in them, act afterwards on their 
own account, spur themselves forward, and violently 
encourage themselves in order to carry them out. They 
go much further than our Lord urges them, and, what is 
worse, even when the Master no longer urges them at all, 
they still wish to go forward. The results of this conduct 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 239 

are not good at least, not ordinarily so. Sometimes it 
incites to self-love, spiritual ambition, presumption, etc. ; 
sometimes it leads to discouragement, sometimes it pro 
duces strife, anxiety, uneasiness, even scrupulosity. In 
every case it results in the soul entering upon a false path, 
where it is exposed to illusions, and falls under the dominion 
of the imagination and its own action, serious inconveni 
ences which separate it from God " (Letter of Venerable 
Father Libermann, January 24, 1842). 

2. Vocation. 

261. We have mentioned the marks of Divine inspira 
tions. The most important of these inspirations are those 
which God sends to us to show us the kind of life that we 
are to embrace. These graces and these lights together 
constitute a vocation. 

It seems unnecessary to linger upon the vocation to 
the secular state ; the absence of aspirations, or aptitude 
for a higher state, would suffice to indicate it as a state 
desired by God, since it is the ordinary path, and we should 
therefore continue in it, if we do not feel ourselves urged on 
by grace to a more perfect mode of life. 

With regard to a call to one state rather than to another, 
whilst remaining in the world, Providence determines this, 
either in the ordinary course of events or by the natural 
inclination. 

God, in fact, inclines souls, by the attractions which He 
sends them and the aptitudes which He gives them, to 
the accomplishment of the designs of His Providence. 
Only let us remark that, in order to determine God s 
views, attractions which only last a little time, or repug 
nances which are weak and momentary, prove nothing at 
all, whilst attractions or repugnances which are persistent 
are a proof of His will. 

262. Let us hear two pronouncements of St. Francis of 
Sales regarding the married state : " Since your spirit 



240 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

is by no means indifferent, but entirely inclined to the 
choice of marriage, and that you still feel yourself drawn 
thereto, although you have taken counsel with God, it 
is not expedient for any kind of consideration to do violence 
to so strong an impression : for all the other circumstances 
have no weight in the face of that strong inclination and 
propensity which you have which, indeed, if it were weak 
and feeble, would need little attention, but being powerful 
and firm, it must serve as a foundation for the resolution." 
The Saint wished, therefore, that on this point, as on 
others, we should begin by imploring God s assistance ; 
then, we should regard the interior attraction as a sign of 
the Divine will ; if the attraction is lacking, he earnestly 
advised that this step should not be taken, especially 
did he recommend that this state should not be embraced 
against our will. " Alas !" he wrote, " those souls who 
have a particular inclination for marriage, however happy 
a one it may be, find in it so many occasions of patience 
and mortification that they can scarcely bear the burden 
of it ; and how would it be with you, entering into it entirely 
against the grain ? In other conditions I have known 
alleviations, but in this, never " (Letter, March 31, 1620). 
Tribulationem carnis habebunt hujusmodi. St. Paul, 
speaking of married persons, said that they would have 
many trials in common. After that, what shall we say of 
Christians who enter the marriage state without any 
reflection, in obedience to some fancy or fascination, and 
not in order to accomplish the will of God ? 

263. A vocation to a higher state must be carefully 
examined. 1 We will first give the marks of non-vocation, 
and then the positive signs of the Divine call. 

1 We cannot judge as to our vocation ; in this, more than any 
other matter, obedience is necessary. Even if it should happen that 
superiors or a director should be mistaken in deciding as to the 
vocation, God would not refuse His graces to one who has humbly 
obeyed, whilst he who should be his own adviser in so serious a 
matter would expose himself to great danger. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 241 

The marks of non-vocation are the existence of pressing 
and undoubted duties, incompatible with the mode of 
life which we might think of embracing, and the want of 
aptitude. 

" If thy father or thy mother have a real need of thy 
assistance in order to live, then it is not time to practise 
the counsel of withdrawal into a monastery " (St. Francis 
of Sales, Treatise of the Love of God, viii. 6). 

Thus it is, again, that the Canon Law forbids the admis 
sion to the religious profession of those who have debts, 
and who would thereby be rendered incapable of paying 
them. We say " pressing and undoubted duties." We 
must not be stopped by purely human considerations, and 
obstinately refuse to approve a vocation, under pretext 
that the soul professing to be called would do much more 
good in a state other than that to which it aspires in 
the active life, for example, rather than the contemplative. 

In this case it is doubtless wise to make the time of 
trial longer and more rigorous ; but if the attraction per 
sists with all the signs of a Divine call, it must be remem 
bered that the wisdom of man is always limited, and that 
the judgments of God are very different from ours Non 
enim cogitationes mecz cogitationes vestrce : neque vice vestrce, 
vice mece (Isa. Iv. 8) and we must not fight against the 
Holy Spirit of God. 

264. The absence of aptitude is a sign of non-vocation, 
for when God destines one of His creatures for some 
manner of life, or any situation whatever, His Providence 
provides the necessary means for that end. And this is 
so true that even when the attraction has all the marks of 
an inspiration from God, in case of inaptitude we should 
pay no heed to it, for, as we said above, God may, for the 
sanctification of souls, inspire them with desires which He 
does not wish to see fulfilled. Nevertheless, let us re 
mark that when a seriously tested attraction appears 
vested with all the marks of a Divine attraction, the in 
capacity of the subject must not be lightly pronounced 

VOL. I. 1 6 



242 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

upon. As St. Frances of Sales wrote to a Superior of the 
Visitation : " It is pitiful sometimes how people confine 
themselves to purely human considerations in these ques 
tions. One would say that vocations were made by the 
contrivances of natural wisdom, so much worldly policy 
do they mingle with them. It is always the poor rejected 
ones who have had blessing and increase, like Lia, Hannah, 
and others " (Letter of July 24, 1621). Let us note, in 
passing, that St. Francis of Sales says the same thing of 
the foundation and erection of monasteries, and that his 
doctrine may be applied to every holy enterprise. How 
many times, when it is a question of works which are to 
the glory of God, do we allow ourselves to be guided by 
"worldly policy"! how many times do we lean solely 
upon " the contrivances of natural wisdom " ! 

The Saint expressed the same thought to St. Jane 
Frances : " My dearest Mother, with regard to what you 
write me about the reception of daughters in religion, 
there is extreme danger of relying too much upon human 
prudence, and resting too much upon nature and too little 
on the grace of God. I have great difficulty in preventing 
any attention being paid to the weakness of constitution 
and bodily infirmity. If they had their way, neither the 
one - eyed, the lame, nor the sick would come to the 
marriage- feast. In short, it is hard to fight against the 
human spirit on the side of abjection and pure charity." 

265. Positive Marks of Vocation. The true, the great, 
mark of the Divine call, or, rather, the Divine call itself, 
then, is the attraction, the inclination, implanted by God 
in the human heart, that actual, preventive, stimulating 
grace which makes it aspire to the more perfect mode of 
life to which it is predestined for all eternity. 
;- This attraction is not always manifested at the outset. 
The ways of Divine Providence, as manifold even as they 
are wise, may order events in such a fashion as to prepare 
the accomplishment of its designs before the supernatural 
attraction has clearly shown itself. 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 243 

We see it, for example, leading certain persons to the 
threshold of a cloister or to the door of the seminary 
before they are aware of any really lively desire for the life 
which is to be theirs. This is usually because those souls 
are still too weak, not sufficiently loving, or too full of 
worldly thoughts to feel that attraction for sacrifice which 
their vocation supposes. They have, indeed, some idea, 
some slight desire, to give themselves to God, but the 
love of pleasure and earthly joys overlie and stifle these 
feelings ; it is a long way from these vague aspirations to 
the ardent desires, the sweet and powerful attraction, 
which generous hearts experience. 

But if it is slow to exhibit itself, the attraction will 
none the less appear when detachment has increased and 
the soul, purified, freed from its evil inclinations, has be 
come more fitted to receive the inspirations of grace. 



CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DIVINE ATTRACTION. 

266. The attraction planted by God in the hearts of His 
creatures is distinguished from the false attraction which 
comes from nature, or even from the devil, in that it is 
lasting and peaceful, supernatural in its motives and 
salutary in its effects. 

Lasting. We have mentioned perseverance as one of 
the most unmistakable marks of Divine inspiration, 
while inconstancy and instability characterize the aspira 
tions which have their source in nature or diabolic sugges 
tion. This persistence of the attraction does not, however, 
exclude temptations and passing revulsions of feeling, due 
to nature and the Evil One. It is not astonishing that 
nature shrinks from the sacrifices which God demands of 
it non est subjecta, nee enim potest l neither is it strange 
that the devil should oppose the execution of a design which 

1 "The wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God, for it is not 
subject to the law of God, neither can it be " (Rom. viii. 7). 

16 2 



244 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

tends immediately to God s glory and the sanctification of 
the soul. It is, moreover, easy to determine if this 
reluctance, with regard to a vocation which was formerly 
desired, has a bad origin. The soul, indeed, inclined to 
tepidity and slackness, no longer possesses the interior 
peace in which it formerly rejoiced ; it feels dissatisfied 
with itself. 

If, then, while the soul remains fervent, the attraction 
persists, if the opposition or the difficulties which the 
vocation encounters do not lessen it in any degree, it is a 
sign of God s will, " since He continues His inspirations 
amidst so many contradictions " (St. Francis of Sales, 
Letter, July 6, 1614). 

267. Peaceful. The Divine inspirations, as we have said, 
produce peace and contentment, unlike the incitations of 
nature, in which the imagination always plays the greater 
part, and an anxious and restless uneasiness results. The 
supernatural attraction leaves the heart at peace, the spirit 
in repose ; it does not cause that excessive, clamorous 
enthusiasm which denotes an exalted imagination, and 
declines to see difficulties. Under its influence the will 
pursues the object of its desires, not with a fixity of pur 
pose and an obstinacy full of pride and illusion, but with 
a calm and peaceful determination. It is ready to face 
obstacles which it does not under-rate, and to accomplish 
sacrifices all the bitterness of which it foresees. 

It is true that the imagination may join forces with the 
operations of grace, and that movements of self-love or 
fantastic representations may intermingle with the inspira 
tions of God s Holy Spirit. Occasional bursts of enthusiasm, 
which are evidently the work of nature, then result. At 
intervals of repose, when the imagination is calm and the 
heart tranquil, especially during times of recollection and 
prayer, such as at the moment of Communion, the attrac 
tion continues with the characters to which we have 
referred above, and we recognize the real impulse of grace 
which exists under all this natural activity. If it were 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 245 

purely natural and imaginary, it would fall away suddenly, 
to reappear again, a mere sport of the imagination, while 
in moments of calm, when grace alone held sway, it would 
no longer have any taste of vocation, if, indeed, it gave a 
thought to the matter. 

268. Supernatural in its Motives. We sometimes dis 
tinguish between the attraction of reason and the attrac 
tion of inclination. The former, as its name indicates, 
resides rather in the mind than in the heart, and would 
consist in a firm and well-grounded resolution, determined 
by weighty motives, to give itself to God. The second 
would be rather instinctive and independent of any kind 
of reasoning. But in reality these things are not so 
clearly divided, and every supernatural attraction affects 
the entire soul. In some persons, however, the intelli 
gence, and in others the heart, is more actively affected, 
and these latter feel a pronounced liking, a lively inclina 
tion, which has not apparently been reasoned out. But 
even these have some aim in view. They have more or 
less avowed but real motives which make them aspire 
to a more perfect way of life. But in judging the value 
of a vocation, one of the most useful things to know is the 
exact nature of the motives that inspire it ; if they are 
supernatural, such as the thought of ensuring salvation, 
or of procuring God s greater glory, they constitute an 
excellent presumption in favour of the vocation, which 
would then certainly appear to be the work of grace. 

The attraction, as we have already said, does not always 
appear at first clothed in all the characters of a Divine 
origin. At the outset the motives of vocation may not 
be very pure and disinterested. Let us hear St. Francis 
of Sales on this point : " With regard to this young lady s 
vocation, I consider it good, although it is intermingled 
with several imperfections . . . and it would be desirable 
for her to have come to God simply and purely for the 
good of being entirely His. But God does not draw all 
those whom He calls to Himself with equal motives ; so 



246 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

there are few who come to His service solely for the sake 
of being His and of serving Him. Amongst the women 
whose vocation is mentioned in the Gospel, there was only 
Magdalen who came through love and with love. The 
adulteress came to Him by reason of her public exposure, 
as the Samaritan woman because of her private shame. 
The woman of Canaan came in order to be solaced in her 
temporal affliction ; St. Paul, the first hermit, when fifteen 
years old, withdrew into his retreat to avoid persecution ; 
St. Ignatius of Loyola was drawn by tribulation, and so 
with a hundred others. We must not wish all to commence 
by perfection. It matters little how we begin, provided 
we are quite resolved to go on well and to end well. . . . 
There are some souls who would never have entered 
religion if the world had smiled upon them, and whom we 
see, nevertheless, quite disposed to feel contempt for the 
vanity of the age " (Letter to a Superior of the Visitation, 
dated from Annecy). 

But if it is not perfect from the outset, the attraction 
becomes purer as the soul shows itself more fervent. It 
then becomes less sensible to these lower reasons and more 
desirous for spiritual good. 

It is strange, and yet true, that we must exact a stronger 
attraction from a very fervent person than from one who 
is imperfect. When a fervent soul is predestined to a more 
perfect life the appeals of grace (which in such a case are 
unopposed) always make themselves actively felt. If they 
were weak, they would by that very fact be open to 
suspicion. 

Besides, ardent souls often form an idea of embracing 
the religious life without having a real attraction to it. 
Being very anxious to give themselves entirely to the 
service of God, fearing in their love that they cannot do 
enough for Him, they come, as it were, naturally to ask 
themselves if they ought not to push their self-sacrifice 
to* the very end, and leave the world. Nevertheless, we 
see quite well that there is no vocation, for all this takes 



DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS 247 

place in the mind, and the will fails to experience that 
strong, gentle action which is a sign of the Divine opera 
tion. In the midst of their perplexities these souls remain 
unconcerned, and are even always inwardly convinced in 
their hearts that they were not made for the religious life. 

269. Salutary in its Effects. A fructibus eorum cogno- 
scetis eos (By their fruits ye shall know them). We recog 
nize that the attraction is the work of God s Holy Spirit 
by its excellent effects. Whilst the empty projects, the 
fancies of vocation, which come from nature do not produce 
any result in the conduct of life, and whilst the suggestions 
of the Evil One always have deplorable consequences, the 
Divine attraction, understood and accepted by a righteous 
soul, conduces to fervour, excites to devotion, and renders 
it more vigilant, more humble, and more eager for sacrifice. 
If we see a soul ardently desiring the religious life or the 
priesthood, praying continually to obtain it, working 
generously to render itself worthy of it, it is an excellent 
sign. A desire which has the result of making anyone 
pray more and become better, cannot be suggested by the 
devil : it can only come from God. 

In short, when any director is questioned concerning a 
vocation, he must begin by making his penitent wait. 
He will reply that he who wishes for a decision in so deli 
cate a matter must first and above all establish himself 
in piety. It is, in fact, much more difficult to distinguish 
the inspirations which really come from God in an imperfect 
soul. 

Not only would it be imprudent to pronounce a decision 
straightway, but we think it would be even better for the 
director to seem to have no leanings on one side or another. 
The idea of a vocation may be only a product of the 
imagination. In that case, if a director should appear too 
favourable to it, he would be influencing his penitent quite 
in the wrong direction. On the other hand, it may happen 
that a true and really supernatural attraction is combated 
by some soul that is wanting in generosity. If, by way of 



248 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

trying it, the spiritual father should begin by discouraging 
it, he would confirm it in its resistance to grace, and would 
be in danger of preventing the accomplishment of God s 
designs. " Let him advise these souls at first not to occupy 
themselves too much with the thought of their vocation, 
but to think rather of their sanctification, and to let the 
matter rest, leaving it in God s hands. But let him not 
absolutely forbid them to mention the matter or repulse 
them by raillery or harsh words. He may warn them to 
keep watch over the imagination, but not tell them that 
their ideas are pure imagination. Those who have not a 
real vocation will thus forget their project little by little, 
because an imaginary movement or a natural attraction 
which is not perpetually fed and kept alive by something 
fresh does not endure, while a true vocation perseveres. 
I will even say that when a taste for a vocation is obviously 
productive of spiritual good in the soul, and leads it to 
self-renunciation, some ground for hope should be given 
it from the outset, and some word be said to it from time 
to time, although care should be taken not to set the 
imagination to work " (Venerable Father Libermann, Letter 
to the Director of a Seminary, December 15, 1835). 

Even if great imperfections should still remain in those 
who display these desires for a perfect life, we must not 
conclude that there is no vocation if they have made up 
their minds to combat them. " For, after all, if we would 
only receive souls with whom there would be no trouble, 
the religious orders would scarcely be of much use to our 
neighbour, since these souls would do well almost any 
where " (Letter of St. Francis of Sales to St. Jane Frances, 
May 13, 1615). 

When the penitent has given proof of perseverance, when 
his good dispositions are confirmed, when in concert with 
his director he has prayed earnestly for knowledge con 
cerning his vocation, he must then try to attain to a state 
of holy indifference, ready to do what God wishes. " Speak, 
Lord, for Thy servant heareth. He awaiteth only a sign 



DESCRIPTION OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 249 

from Thine hand, a word from Thy mouth. Paratum cor 
meum, Deus. My heart is ready, O my God ready for 
every sacrifice, for it counts upon the power of Thy grace." 
When the penitent possesses these excellent dispositions, 
it will become easy to recognize by the marks given above 
if his vocation is supernatural, and only the pleasant task 
of encouraging him to follow out God s call faithfully will 
remain to the director. 



PART III. AFFECTIVE PRAYER 
CHAPTER I 

DESCRIPTION OF THIS PRAYER 

I. The Doctrine of Spiritual Writers concerning 
Affective Prayer. 

270. To the prayer of meditation affective prayer usually 
succeeds. It is, as we have said, a form of prayer in which 
reasoning has a less share than in discursive prayer, the 
heart playing the greater part. The considerations also 
are fewer, and the feelings more ardent. " In the second 
kind of prayer, called affective prayer," says Father Lalle- 
mant, " we make more use of the affections of the will 
than of the considerations of the intellect." " Affective 
prayer," says Father Meynard, " is an elevation of the soul 
to God by different acts of the will. Considerations are 
not completely excluded from this way of prayer, but are 
present principally in the form of preparations, and are 
but little developed. It is the will which is the prime 
mover " (Treatise on the Interior Life, i. 168). 

The acts which the heart produces in this prayer spring, 
for the most part, from feelings of adoration, praise, grati 
tude, compassion for our Lord s sufferings, desire for virtue, 



250 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

contrition for sin, humility, etc. They occur frequently 
in meditation, but they arise less spontaneously. The 
meditative soul is still deficient in love, and has to incite 
itself to these acts laboriously, and by long and multiplied 
arguments, while the affective soul produces them easily 
by way of short meditations, and finds great pleasure and 
delight in expressing them. 

271. This kind of prayer is very common. " Generally 
speaking," says St. Balthasar Alvarez, " the method of 
praying by affections, with few considerations, is the one 
most in vogue." And Father Surin, asking in his Cate 
chism, " When should we enter upon this affective prayer ?" 
replies : " When a disposition to converse with God is 
present, and is combined with facility, we must rarely 
resort to considerations that is to say, reasoning." The 
great mystical writers do not employ this term " affective 
prayer." It is not found in the works of St. Teresa, St. 
John of the Cross, or St. Francis of Sales. They do not 
distinguish it from discursive prayer, because in it there 
are to be found deliberate considerations which give rise 
to affections of the will. But if they do not make it a 
distinct degree of prayer, they cannot reject the fact of 
its existence. Father Meynard (Treatise on the Inner Life, 
i. 168), writing on the subject of affective prayer, observes 
that in some ancient writers affective prayer appears to 
be confounded with contemplation. In fact, it often 
happens that in the ardent outpourings of affective prayer 
considerations play only a small part, the soul not pausing 
to make them. Being firmly convinced of the truth which 
is the object of its fervours, nothing would be gained by 
going into it more deeply. It therefore occupies itself solely 
in protesting its feelings or expressing its needs. Certain 
authors, recognizing no other methods of prayer but 
meditation and contemplation, and not stopping at that 
intermediary degree which we call affective prayer, have 
seen in this latter a kind of inferior contemplation, which 
they have called acquired contemplation. 



DESCRIPTION OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 251 

272. We have said that though affective prayer has often 
been described by the great mystic writers, yet they have 
not called it by that name. Later (289) we shall quote 
a passage from St. Teresa where she treats of this prayer 
with no less accuracy than charm. The prayer of recollec 
tion of which the Saint speaks in chapters xxviii. and 
xxix. of the Way of Perfection is likewise a form of affective 
prayer. 

"St. Augustine," she says, " after searching every 
where for God, found Him at length within his own heart. 
In order to hold communion with our Divine Father we 
need not, therefore, ascend up to heaven, nor is it necessary 
to speak aloud in order to enjoy the happiness of being 
with Him. ... He is so near to us that He will hear us. 
We do not need wings to go after Him. Let us retire into 
a solitary place, direct our gaze inwardly ; let us not go 
far away from so lovable a Guest, but with feelings of pro 
found humility let us speak to Him like children. Let us 
show Him our wishes as to a father, and tell Him our 
troubles, ask Him to remedy them, realize that we are 
not worthy to be His children. . . . This kind of prayer 
is called the prayer of recollection, because the soul collects 
together all its powers that is, it holds captive both the 
understanding, in which it permits no useless considera 
tions, and the imagination, whose frivolous creations it 
dissipates. It enters into itself in company with its 
God. . . . Thus recollected, it may think of the Passion, 
picture to itself the Son of God present within it, offer 
Him to His Father." 

So in this prayer the object is to move the heart and 
produce affective acts. " In Jesus Christ," says the Saint 
in the same place, " see a Father, a Brother, a Master, a 
Bridegroom, and comport yourself with Him accordingly. 
But in order to excite these pious sentiments in the will, 
we must first set the imagination to work ; so, in a manner, 
by our own industry we obtain a prayer which is of the 
utmost profit to our souls." This, according to St. Teresa, 



252 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

is an exceedingly speedy way of arriving at contempla 
tion. 

A form of prayer of which St. Alphonsus treats (Praxis 
Conf., No. 127), and which he calls by the same name as 
St. Teresa, di racoglimento, does not differ from that of 
which we have just spoken, and is equally a form of affective 
prayer : Quodnam tempus opportunius bonis faciendis 
actibus voluntatis. Could any moment be more pro 
pitious for producing meritorious acts in the will ? 

273. And, further, we class with affective prayer the 
prayer of supernatural recollection which St. Teresa refers 
to (Fourth Mansion, chap. iii.). It is truly the entrance 
to contemplation, " the foundation of the prayer of 
Divine delights," and the vestibule, as it were, through 
which we must pass before we can attain to it es principio 
para venir a ella but it is not yet contemplation properly 
so called. In fact, according to the Saint, the soul, 
although finding itself recollected without any effort, with 
out any exertion, which condition is doubtless the result 
of a perfectly free gift from God, is not yet united to Him 
by love ; it must bring forth, with the aid of pious reflec 
tions and devout considerations, those acts of charity and 
those resolutions which constitute its prayer. " God," 
says St. Teresa again, " requires of us in this state that we 
should address our petitions to Him, that we should con 
sider ourselves as in His presence. . . . We could not then 
check the movements of the understanding discontinue 
our considerations, that is without more harm than good 
resulting." 

It is because of the supernatural element which enters 
into this form of prayer (we refer to that recollection which 
we obtain without effort, by a pure gift of the Divine 
goodness) that many writers consider it to be a kind of 
contemplative prayer. We think that it may be more 
correct to regard it as a prayer of affection, and to say that 
affective prayer, when it attains its full height, comprises 
certain gifts which may be considered as being to some 



DESCRIPTION OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 253 

extent passive (Venerable Father Libermann, Spiritual 
Writings, p. 168). 

So we see that it is not always easy, or even possible, to 
distinguish between these different degrees of prayer : 
affective prayer sometimes mingles with meditation ; 
sometimes, on the other hand, it borders on contempla 
tion. To give its distinctive marks is not an easy task. 
We will, however, make the attempt. 



2. Distinguishing Characteristics of Affective Prayer. 

274. Amongst the chief marks of affective prayer 
Father Libermann notes the sensible impressions of grace 
which affect the soul and fill it with sweet and lively 
emotions. When these impressions become frequent, they 
are indeed a proof that the soul, possessed and illumined 
by grace, has no longer such need of lengthy considerations 
before it can decide to serve God, and that discursive prayer, 
is no longer suited to it. But how are we to distinguish 
these consolations of the affective soul from the delights 
which the contemplative soul enjoys ? The venerable 
author emphatically declares that grace acts particularly 
and more directly upon the senses in affective prayer, 
whilst in contemplation it acts by means of intellectual 
impressions, coming into immediate contact with the 
depths of the soul, and, as it were by rebound, upon the 
senses. But since in both cases the senses may be touched 
and the sensitive appetite charmed and delighted, we 
have not here a distinctive mark which is very easy to 
discern. 

He equally insists upon the vehement character of the 
prayer of affection, contrasted with the calm of contem 
plation. It is true that the ordinary state of affective souls 
is vehement, and the ordinary state of souls united to God 
is calm. All are in accord here. But this, however, would 
not be an infallible test. There is, in fact, a very peaceful 
kind of affective prayer, and there is, on the contrary, 



254 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

the spiritual intoxication, those transports described by 
St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross as being a form of con 
templation which acts violently upon the soul. 

275. St. Teresa, dealing with the same subject, and wish 
ing to distinguish between what she calls the contentments of 
meditation and the delights of contemplation, compares 
the former to the joy which we feel at the announcement 
of some happy news, or on the occasion of some good 
fortune (Fourth Mansion, chap. i.). There must, then, be 
a natural cause, some thought, in a word, some reason, 
to give them birth, and in this sense they are natural. 
" They begin in ourselves," says the Saint, " and end in 
God, whilst the delights have their beginning in God, 1 
and move us much more profoundly." 

" As for the Divine pleasures," she says elsewhere 
(chap, ii.), " it is by our thoughts, by the consideration of 
the works of God, by the labour of our understanding, 
that we obtain them. They are the fruits of our industry, 
of our efforts. The Divine delights are like that water 
which, rising from its very source, which is God, bubbles 
up into the basin of the soul, without any need, conse 
quently, of preliminary consideration. St. John of the 
Cross explains clearly the cause of this phenomenon." 
In this (contemplative) state it is God Who acts, while 
the soul receives. God is instructing the soul and infusing 
into it, by way of contemplation, those highly spiritual 
blessings which are the Divine knowledge and the Divine 
love in one (Living Flame, stanza 3, verses 3 and 5). 

So in the affective state we know the origin, the cause, of 
the consolations that we experience ; we are able to explain 
what moves us and what charms us. We see, for instance, 
that it is the thought of our Lord s Passion, the desire for 
virtue, etc. 

In the contemplative state the delights are much less 

1 Los contentos comienzan de nuestro natural mismo, y acdban en 
Dios. Los gustos comienzan de Dios, y sientelos el natural, y goza 
tanto dellos, como gozan los que tengo dichos, y mucho mas. 



DESCRIPTION OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 255 

explicable. They often arise without any well-determined 
cause, and even if they are accompanied by pious thoughts 
and holy considerations, we know quite well that these 
would not suffice to produce them. What we shall say 
with regard to contemplative prayer will make this much 
clearer. 

276. There is another ground of distinction which does 
not, it is true, hold good with regard to the nature of these 
two kinds of prayer, but which may be of assistance in 
enabling us to distinguish between them : this is the 
different tendencies and dispositions which they promote. 
The prayer of affection tends to the practice of virtue. 1 
The affective 2 soul, still backward in the practice of de 
tachment, is still largely preoccupied with itself. But 
strongly illumined by faith, and feeling the first ardour of 
charity, it desires and seeks after its spiritual welfare and 
the attainment of more solid virtues ; it is eager to amass 
much merit, and it is from that point of view especially 
that it asks God to make it better. 

The contemplative soul looks upon God rather than 
upon itself. It delights in the thought of His perfections, 
burns with a desire to see Him glorified, and, above all, 
is filled with a profound and peaceful love for the Divine 
will. If it also ardently desires its own sanctification, it 
is out of love for its God, and in order to serve Him better, 
rather than for the satisfaction of seeing itself more perfect, 
and thus, even in its petitions, although apparently self- 
interested, love still dominates it. 

277. We said (No. 198), in common with Father Lalle- 
mant and Father Surin, that affective prayer is suited to 
the illuminative life. Indeed, in order to practise it, we 
must already have some love for God, some beginnings of 

1 Cf. Libermann, Spiritual Writings, p. 523. 

2 It is true that this is not the academical sense of the word 
" affective." The reader will forgive our employing it, for it is easy 
to understand, and says concisely what it would otherwise be 
necessary to express in a number oi words. 



256 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

detachment ; the soul must be freed from the obstacles of 
the purgative life before the sweet operations of grace can 
come into play. If we are still at the earliest stages of 
our struggles with sin, if the spirit is still entirely engrossed 
by a thousand temporal preoccupations, a thousand 
worldly cares, how can we feel those pious sentiments, 
those holy desires, that familiarity with God, full of love 
and simplicity, which characterizes affective prayer ? 

3. How the Affective Sentiments are more or less 
Intense. 

278. If affective prayer is fitted for souls in the illumina 
tive life, it does not attain to the same degree of per 
fection in all alike. As we have already said at the be 
ginning of this third part, the sensible impressions of grace 
are more or less active according to the strength of the 
assistance granted by Providence, the abundance of the 
lights communicated, and also according to the more or 
less favourable dispositions of the soul itself. 

Here we think it would be useful to borrow Father 
Libermann s description of the feelings of an affective soul 
favoured with these sensible graces in an intense degree. 

" In this state the impression or touch of the grace 
received varies : sometimes it is an impression of joy, 
sometimes of sorrow, sometimes of love, sometimes of 
compassion, etc. It varies according to the mysteries or 
the diversity of the subject." 

" Generally, and almost universally, these souls occupy 
themselves in the consideration of the mysteries of our 
Lord, in which they find all their pleasure and delight. 
Usually the mysteries of the Church make a deep impres 
sion on these souls, the result of which is that they celebrate 
these feasts with extraordinary happiness and devo 
tion, and the approach of a great feast is an immense 
joy to them. Benediction, a High Mass, or procession, 
fills them with transports of love for our Lord in the Most 



DESCRIPTION OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 257 

Holy Sacrament, this impression usually varying according 
to the object and circumstances (Writings, p. 157). 

279. " Although the soul in this state," says the Vener 
able Father in another place, " enjoys very great delights, 
this does not prevent it from frequently experiencing a 
lively inner sorrow ; but these sorrows are so full of delight, 
and so great and violent is the hidden joy within them, 
that we can form no idea of them without experiencing 
them. These sorrows have their source in different 
objects. 

" There is one that has its origin in past sins. This is 
almost universal, especially in souls which the Divine 
mercy has just rescued from sin. They are overwhelmed 
with grief at having offended their God Whom they love 
so ardently. The violence of their grief is measured by 
the intensity of their love, for this impression of grief is 
an impression of love, and the violence of the joy is in 
proportion to this grief. Some souls are haunted by this 
grief day and night ; it never leaves them for an instant, 
rising and lying down with them, in recreation as in 
the exercises of devotion, at study as at prayer. This state 
is more or less prolonged, according to the will of Him 
Who has permitted it. Some souls remain in this state 
from a year to eighteen months, others for a longer or 
shorter period. 

" Another form of grief comes from the desire of obtain 
ing some grace, acquiring some virtue, after which the soul 
is continually sighing. It is impossible to give any adequate 
idea of the groanings, aspirations, and violent longings 
which crucify it on beholding some virtue in which it is 
lacking. The joy hidden in the heart of this grief is 
exquisite, and differs from that which is to be found in the 
grief of contrition. It is less violent, and participates more 
in the languor of the soul which aspires after this virtue, 
but it is more exquisite and sweet. A third grief arises 
from the sight of the Cross and the sufferings of our Lord. 
It is of quite another kind, and of an entirely different 

VOL. i. 17 



258 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

flavour. In this grief the joy is of an almost incredible 
intensity, and is incomparably more exquisite than the two 
former. 

" The fruits of these griefs are very great and desirable. 
The first engenders a great horror of sin and extreme hatred 
of the world. It purifies the soul wonderfully, and gives 
it the love of God ; it disposes it also to meditation, and 
to a participation in our Lord s Cross. The second attaches 
us strongly to God, brings about humility of soul, and 
leads to the attainment of the virtue so much desired. 
The third and most excellent generates a great love of the 
Cross and of suffering, with a continual yearning after 
them. It strengthens the soul in the love of our Lord, 
detaches it from all creatures and from itself, and leads 
it directly to contemplation " (Writings, p. 163). 

280. " I believe that the great devotion of these souls is 
generally towards the Blessed Sacrament, and this is a 
very happy thing. They would like to spend the whole 
day before their Divine Master ; their desire for Him is 
intense, and fills them continually with transports of love 
towards the Blessed Sacrament. Their visits are ardent, 
and their longings to receive the Holy Communion are 
beyond expression. These desires and this devotion increase 
as they advance in this state. Their preparation is ardent, 
and they await the day on which they are to approach 
Him with real impatience, unable to bear delay. The 
effects of Holy Communion and its fruits are very con 
siderable, and fill these souls with new strength and new 
desires. It produces the most powerful impressions. The 
presence of our Lord makes itself felt with the utmost 
vividness " (Writings, p. 196). 

281. We see, then, that affective souls may be acted 
on in very different ways. Some think more of our Lord, 
following Him in His mysteries ; others regard Him in the 
Holy Eucharist ; others think particularly of their own 
spiritual needs. These of their past life, the sins of which 
they deplore ; those of the salvation of their neighbours, 



DESCRIPTION OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 259 

etc. " A director s first care," says Father Libermann, " is 
to discern these different attractions of the various souls, 
and to favour them in every respect ; to speak to them 
from the standpoint of that attraction, and to take great 
care not to dissuade them from it, or to inspire another 
object in its place. If this attraction is less perfect than 
that which the director might wish, it matters nothing ; the 
soul must remain in it " (Writings, p. 165). 

282. The reader will perhaps inquire if these forms of 
prayer described by the Venerable Father Libermann are 
not already contemplative, and contain the elements of 
mystic prayer. The venerable author does not seem to 
think so. According to him, these impressions are only 
sensible ; the soul would not then receive in them the 
superior lights of faith (the fruit of the gift of understand 
ing), or experience that direct action of the Holy Spirit 
on the will which characterizes contemplative and mystical 
prayer. It would not then have more light than it can 
acquire by means of considerations directed on the truths 
of religion, and love would not be infused, but obtained 
by reflections aided only by the sensible impressions which 
accompany them. 

It is certain that we sometimes meet with this ardent 
prayer in those who are still novices in fervour and scarcely 
freed from the things of sense, not having in any way 
passed through the aridity which purifies the soul and 
introduces it to the mystical state, if it remains faithful. 
This prayer is very like that of the contemplatives, for, as 
Father Libermann shows, these souls are rather urged on 
by grace than excited by themselves. They are more 
passive than active. It would seem, then, as though some 
mystic graces were vouchsafed to them, and we think that 
it would be difficult to prove that they do not receive any 
such. It is, however, true that in these persons grace 
does not penetrate very deeply. It acts more especially 
upon the surface of the soul and the sensible part. We see 
this in the sentiments which it excites, more vehement, 

172 



260 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

but less solid and lasting than those of real contem- 
platives, and the delights which it produces are not so 
profound as the satisfaction and inner peace which con 
templation brings. We see it, above all, in the case of 
trials, for these persons do not yet bear them with courage 
and firmness. They are generous and enthusiastic under 
the influence of these urgent graces, but when the sensible 
impressions cease nature regains its dominion, and they 
find that they are still weak. Later, when they have been 
deprived of consolations for a sufficiently long time, when 
they have struggled bravely and have borne all the trials 
of the contemplative life with faith, confidence, and love 
(no longer stopping for the assistance of the sensible appe 
tite in order to pray and practise virtue, but accustomed 
to act by the supreme part of their noblest faculties), they 
will be stronger and more steadfast. Then, in the moments 
consecrated to prayer, grace, now usually of less vehe 
mence, but greater intensity, will penetrate them more 
fully, will pour into the very depths of the soul light and 
impulses of love which will unite them more directly to 
God ; then their prayer will be, beyond all doubt, mystic 
and contemplative. 

These points understood, practical rules for affective 
prayer will be easily deduced. 



CHAPTER II 

PRACTICAL RULES FOR AFFECTIVE PRAYER 

$ i. Preparation. 

283. BECAUSE the minds of those persons of whom we are 
speaking, especially the most fervent, are often filled with 
spiritual preoccupations, they are sometimes tempted to 
take this disposition of the soul as a sufficient preparation. 
They will think, for example, of the means of making pro- 



PRACTICAL RULES FOR AFFECTIVE PRAYER 261 

gress, or of aiding others to advance in virtue. Now, these 
are indeed good thoughts, but not sufficient to establish 
the soul in the state of prayer. They lead more readily 
to pious reveries than to real prayer. We must always, 
then, place ourselves in spirit at God s feet, in an attitude 
of respect and supplication. 

This preparation will be longer or shorter, and will 
require more or less effort, according to circumstances. 
" It will sometimes happen that unexpectedly, after your 
preparation, your affections will be greatly kindled towards 
God. Then, Philothea, you must give them the loose rein, 
without attempting to follow the method I have given 
you ; for, although considerations should ordinarily pre 
cede the affections and resolutions, yet, if it should happen 
that the Holy Spirit gives you the affections before the 
considerations, you must not go after considerations, since 
their only purpose is to stir up the affections. In short, 
whenever affections offer themselves, you should receive 
them and give them place, whether they happen before 
or after the considerations. . . . And this applies not only 
to the other affections, but also to the acts of thanksgiving, 
oblation, and petition which may be made during the con 
siderations, for they must not be restrained any more than 
the other affections, although afterwards, at the conclusion 
of the meditation, they must be repeated " (Devout Life, 
ii. 8). 

" When we want a light," St. Vincent de Paul once said 
to his priests, " we use a steel, we strike it, and as soon 
as the fire has caught the prepared material we light our 
candle, and he would look foolish who, having once lighted 
his candle, continued to strike the steel ; so just in the same 
way, when a soul is sufficiently enlightened by considera 
tions, what need is there to seek after others, and strike 
our spirit again and again to multiply reasons and thoughts? 
Do you not see that it is a waste of time, and that then we 
should set to work to enkindle our will ?" (His Life, by 
Abelly). 



262 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

2. The Substance of the Prayer. 

284. The subjects best suited to souls vary according to 
their particular attraction. Many pious souls make the 
great mistake of wishing, like beginners, to follow their books 
of meditation line by line, and in keeping strictly to the 
thoughts and affections suggested to them, and which at times 
correspond neither to their dispositions nor to their needs. 
" As animals fastened to a stake can only go to the length 
of their tether, and then afterwards go wearily turning 
round and round, so these persons bind themselves down 
to a certain number of points so straitly that it is pitiable 
to see them. . . . He would not be on familiar terms with 
a man who, before going to visit him, should prepare three 
points to lay before him, without daring to venture farther ; 
and, likewise, it would be a continual hell to be kept shut 
up within the bounds of a premeditated discourse, but 
intimacy demands that, after having finished your business 
(if you have any), you should talk to him in a free and 
friendly manner, responding to any opening given you by 
the goodness of him with whom you are dealing " (Surin, 
Catechism, vol. i., part ii., chap. ii.). 

Pious persons, already intimate with our Lord, should 
not be such slaves to their books of meditation and the 
subjects suggested to them. Let them apply themselves 
to the fundamental points of Christian perfection the love 
of our Lord, recollection, patience, detachment in order 
to enkindle their desires and render their demands more 
fervent ; let them make use either of the examples of the 
Saints, or of such books of devotion as touch them most, 
or, which is always better, the mysteries of the life and 
especially of the Passion of Jesus Christ. They will then 
choose the most practical subjects, attaching themselves 
by preference to the considerations which move them the 
most, and having reference always to their^particular 
needs. 

285. This is what Father Surin very rightly teaches : 



PRACTICAL RULES FOR AFFECTIVE PRAYER 263 

" The soul which God has touched sees and recognizes that 
its own amendment is its principal business. In order to 
obtain this, it judges two or three things to be absolutely 
necessary namely, recollection, the mortification of the 
passions and appetites, and the disentangling of the heart 
from all creatures. First of all, when it is at prayer, having 
placed itself in God s presence, and having conceived the 
desire of pleasing Him, it begins, as we have said, with all 
its strength to see and make trial of the necessity for re 
collection. It goes fully into this, thinking of the ways 
and means, opportunities and obstacles, to this blessing. 
It desires it, and earnestly asks it of God with the most 
fervent petitions, and does not leave the matter until it 
has exhausted it. Afterwards it may take another subject 
mortification and will see and search into the good 
which results from dying to its passions, appetites, tastes, 
and satisfactions. It may form an affection and a desire 
for this good, considering the occasions when it may be 
practised, and in this way really begin to die unto itself. 

" Further, this soul must strive after detachment from 
creatures, placing itself in God s presence, with the design 
of denuding itself of everything ; then it should think what 
there is in the world which can engage its heart and affec 
tions. First, the Holy Spirit of God, Who is good and 
faithful, will show it the attachment that it has to its 
honour, its possessions, its employment, or some person 
or other whom it loves. If the soul to whom these things 
are revealed in prayer is true, it will say : Lord, all this 
I give Thee. It will make a hundred acts of renunciation ; 
it will think how to strip itself entirely, and will so often 
say that it desires to possess nothing that at length it will 
find itself free. This is the right manner of prayer. Those 
who do otherwise, and take a different subject each day, 
sometimes turning to one thing, sometimes to another, do 
not reap so great a reward as those who devote themselves 
to these foundations of the spiritual life, weighing them 
and feeding on them for months and even years. Thus, 



264 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

finally, they will stand possessed of all the principal points 
of our Lord s teaching. Then some day, when they do 
not expect it, they will find themselves rich in spirit, and 
God will promote them to greater advantages and a higher 
manner of prayer " (Spiritual Catechism, vol. ii. } part vii., 
chap. i.). 

286. " That," says Father Surin, " is the best method of 
prayer for persons fully determined to refuse God nothing, 
but who, nevertheless, have still some imperfections to 
correct and some virtues to acquire." These are they 
whom, in this work, we call " fervent souls." As for those 
who are not so resolute, but who are rather cowardly, half 
hearted, and lagging in imperfections, against which they 
do not really strive, we have called this the state of simple 
piety, and the best course to take with them is to make 
them beg God unceasingly to give them this whole-hearted 
will, and to strive to gain it by every kind of considera 
tion. 

Let these souls not fear to ask much. A prayer entirely 
spent in asking would be excellent. Those who are troubled 
and think everything lost when they have not thoroughly 
fathomed the points of a meditation must be reassured. 
" You do nothing, you say, in prayer," wrote St. Francis 
of Sales to a lady, " but what do you wish to do, except 
that which you are doing showing again and again your 
nothingness and your poverty to God ? The finest appeal 
which beggars can make to us is to lay bare to us all their 
sores and necessities " (Letter, vol. vi., p. 383, ed. 
Briday). 

287. Resolutions. Affective souls must not neglect reso 
lutions. They must cultivate a devotion towards those 
which respond to their particular attraction and needs, 
and then, rather than change them, repeat them con 
stantly. 



SOULS FOR WHICH AFFECTIVE PRAYER IS SUITABLE 265 

CHAPTER III 

THE SOULS FOR WHICH AFFECTIVE PRAYER IS SUITABLE 

288. AFFECTIVE prayer is particularly adapted to the 
illuminative life. Nevertheless, it may be profitably re 
commended to some persons who have not yet emerged 
from the purgative life, and who are more disposed to 
hold converse with our Lord than to reflect upon abstract 
subjects. St. Vincent de Paul wished the sick to pray by 
placing themselves quietly in God s presence, forming 
repeated acts of resignation, conformity to the Divine will, 
contrition for their sins, patience, confidence in the Divine 
goodness, thanksgiving for His benefits, love of God, and 
such-like. This, in his opinion, was the only kind of 
prayer suitable to their state. There are many Christians 
who do not wish to be tied down to meditation properly 
so called, but who will accept this method. 

289. Let us hear the advice which St. Teresa gave to 
her daughters upon the subject : " Before beginning your 
prayer you should first examine your conscience, then say 
the Confiteor. This done, try immediately, my daughters, 
since you are alone, to find a companion. But what com 
panionship could be preferable to that of the Divine Master, 
Who Himself has taught you the prayer that you are about 
to say ? Consider this adorable Saviour as being by your 
side, and with what humility He deigns to instruct you. 
I counsel you to remain in the company of so excellent a 
Friend as long as you may. If you form a habit of keeping 
yourself in His presence, and if He sees that you do so 
through a continual wish to please Him, you will no longer 
be able, as they say, to drive Him from you. 

" O my sisters, you who cannot discourse much with the 
understanding, nor occupy yourselves with any subject 
without troublesome distractions, form, I pray you form 
this salutary habit that I am speaking of. I know you 



266 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

can do so. I know it from my own experience. For 
several years I grieved because I could not fix my mind 
upon one single truth during the hour of prayer. This, I 
admit, is a very great trial, but if we humbly implore our 
Lord to remove it, believe that He will hear our entreaties, 
in His infinite kindness He cannot make up His mind to 
leave us alone in this way, and He will wish to bear us 
company. If one year is not sufficient for the attainment 
of this happiness, let us work on for several, and not regret 
such well-spent time. I repeat, it is in our power to accus 
tom ourselves to work in the presence of our Lord. Let us 
make generous efforts, and in the end we shall have the 
consolation of enjoying the company of this true Master 
of our souls. 

" Do not think, however, that I ask you to make long 
meditations upon this Divine Saviour, nor many great and 
subtle considerations. Simply look upon Him. If you 
cannot do more, at least keep the eyes of your soul fixed 
for some instants upon this adorable Bridegroom. . . . He 
never turns His eyes away from you. Despite all the in 
dignities of which you have been guilty towards Him, 
never for one single instant has He ceased to follow you 
with His eyes, and you would think that you were doing 
something great if, turning away your own eyes from 
exterior things, you fixed them a few moments upon Him 
Who has loved you so much. . . . Are you happy ? 
Think of Him risen to life again. The mere sight of Him 
coming forth from the sepulchre will make you tremble 
with delight. What splendour ! what beauty ! what 
majesty ! what triumph ! Are you in tribulation or 
sorrow ? Follow Him to the Garden of Gethsemane. 
Consider in what an ocean of affliction His soul must be 
plunged, since, being not only patient, but patience itself, 
He does not suffer His trouble to be known nor make 
complaint. Or, again, consider Him bound to the column, 
become the Man of Sorrows, all His whole body torn with 
stripes, enduring this torture out of the excess of His love 



SOULS FOR WHICH AFFECTIVE PRAYER IS SUITABLE [267 

for you, persecuted by some, spat upon by others, re 
nounced and abandoned by His friends, having no one to 
defend Him, shivering with the cold, and reduced to such 
a state of loneliness that you can come, alone and unseen, 
to mingle your troubles with His, and each console the 
other. Or, finally, represent to yourself this adorable 
Saviour bearing His cross and climbing the Hill of Calvary, 
while the executioners give Him no time even to breathe. 
He will turn His eyes filled with tears upon you, but oh, 
the Divine beauty and tender compassion in that look ! 

" Your heart grows less hard seeing the Divine Bride 
groom of your soul in this condition, and, not content with 
regarding Him, you feel yourselves inwardly urged to hold 
converse with Him. Do so ; but away with all studied 
language. Use only simple words, and those dictated by 
your heart. They possess the greatest value in His eyes. . . . 

" One means which will assist you in maintaining your 
self in the presence of our Lord is to have an image of this 
adorable Master according to the individual taste. Do not 
be satisfied with wearing it without ever looking at it, but 
keep it continually in view, so that the sight of it may 
excite you often to hold converse with your Spouse. Be 
quite sure He Himself will put into your hearts the words 
you must speak to Him. You feel no embarrassment 
when you speak to His creatures ; why should you want 
for words when you converse with your God ? Do not 
be afraid that this will befall you. For my part, at least, 
I regard it as impossible, if you are accustomed to hold 
these colloquies with our Lord. Without this habit it is 
not astonishing that you should want for words ; for when 
we are strangers with any person we feel a certain un 
easiness in his presence, and do not know what to say to 
him " (The Way of Perfection, chap, xxvii.). 

290. We may, then, attain to affective prayer without 
passing through a course of discursive prayer. " Although 
the prayer of meditation leads little by little to the prayer 
of affection, that does not prevent many souls from be- 



268 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

ginning by the latter, and never being able to apply them 
selves to meditation " (Libermann, " On the Prayer of 
Affection," Writings, 149). 

For many centuries men have prayed without making 
a methodical use of meditation, as we do nowadays. 
Further, the rules of the old religious orders do not appear 
to consider mental prayer as an exercise apart. The life 
of the monks, divided between the singing of the Psalms 
and manual labour or study, was none the less a life of com 
plete union with God, full of prayer, but prayer which is 
affective or contemplative. With regard to considerations 
and motives of faith, which conduce to the practice of 
piety and sustain the good-will, if they did not search into 
them in discursive meditation, they found them, neverthe 
less, in pious reading, particularly that of Holy Scripture 
and the Fathers, in conferences and sermons. So history, 
no less than the authority of the masters, shows that we 
may, in certain cases, devote ourselves to affective prayer 
without having gone through a course of meditation. 

Usually, however, it is better to follow the beaten track, 
and begin by meditating upon and sounding the funda 
mental truths of religion. It will be prudent, therefore, 
at the commencement of the spiritual life, to keep to the 
practice of meditation, and only to enter upon affective 
prayer when the soul, firmly convinced and won over to 
the love of God, feels more ease in conversing with Him 
and expressing its desires. 

291. When we are able to pray in this loving fashion it 
is very sweet, and it is the beginning of the Divine favours. 
Thenceforth the soul becomes more faithful, for it delights 
therein, and would willingly repeat the dying words of 
St. Jane Frances : " Prayer is the true happiness of this 
life." It were well, however, that it should understand 
that its kind of prayer is not the highest. The souls who 
experience the ardours of affective prayer, who give them 
selves up to sweet and loving outpourings, easily imagine 
that there is no more perfect manner of praying. In this 



DIFFICULTIES OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 269 

false persuasion they are exposed to the danger of believing 
themselves more advanced than they really are, and of 
feeling contempt for those who complain of their power- 
lessness in this regard. Later, when the time has come 
to enter into a new path in which nature is less active 
and leaves the way more free to the Divine operation, 
these souls, believing that they are less deserving, when 
they are in reality only calmer, would be tempted to dis 
tress of mind and the opposing of obstacles in the way of 
the most precious graces. 



CHAPTER IV 

DIFFICULTIES WHICH ARE MET WITH IN THE PRACTICE OF 
AFFECTIVE PRAYER 

i. The Causes of Aridities 1 The Conduct to be observed 
in Aridities. 

292. " BUT this pleasant condition will not last for 
ever ; thus, it will happen that sometimes you will be so 
deprived and destitute of any sentiment of devotion that 
you will think that your soul is a desert land, unfruitful 
and sterile, in which there is neither track nor road which 
would lead us to God, nor any waters of grace to irrigate 
it, because of the dryness which threatens to reduce it to 
a perfect waste " (Devout Life, iv. 14). 

These drynesses, or aridities, arise " sometimes from 
some unfaithfulness, some seeking after, or delight in, a 
creature. Then these souls must be gently treated : they 
should be obliged to make an examination of themselves 
and form resolutions upon it, that they may be established 

1 Drynesses are met with in the different degrees of the spiritual 
life ; we are now considering those of the devout soul, not far ad 
vanced in detachment, and which, for this reason, is still far from 
contemplation . 



270 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

in feelings of self-humiliation before God. We must 
console them, and give them peace, as far as possible, by 
rendering them submissive to the will of God, and obedient 
to his good pleasure. 

" Sometimes this is not a consequence of any fault, but 
God is wishing to try their humility and gentle submission 
to His Divine will and their fidelity in the midst of dryness. 
The director should take advantage of these moments to 
detach them and show them that these sensibilities are by 
no means all-important, but that they are rather nothing 
at all, and often only result in our becoming too attached 
to them ; that it is necessary to give themselves up entirely 
to God, for perfection consists in this ; that they must 
make use of all graces in order to be more truly His, and 
not think themselves more holy because of the greater 
abundance of these sentiments. Then they will be more 
capable of understanding these considerations than when 
they are abounding in joys " (Libermann, Spiritual Writ 
ings, p. 1 66). 

293. They must then be reminded that grace is not felt, 
that it may exist in the soul unknown to us, and that 
sensible impressions and emotions are consequently not 
grace, but are given to us on account of our weakness, to 
encourage us to pray, just as people give children jam, 
which has hardly any nourishment, in order that they 
may eat the bread, which is a more substantial food ; that 
fidelity in times of dryness is much more conducive to the 
soul s progress than prayers which are most full of conso 
lation, because it is the occasion of more steadfast and 
ardent acts of love. In these moments of aridity, he will 
add, this is what you should say to God : " My God, it is 
for Thee, and not myself ; it is to be pleasing in Thy sight, 
and not for my own satisfaction, that I give myself to this 
holy exercise of prayer ; I will continue to do so, now 
that it is a burden to me, as well as when I found all kinds 
of delights therein, and this will be a sign of love which 
Thou wilt appreciate the more." 



DIFFICULTIES OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 271 

294. In such a case we must continue our efforts. There 
are persons who, under the pretext that sensible devotion is 
not necessary to them, give themselves no trouble to excite 
fervour within themselves. They acquiesce so easily when 
they find that they are in a state of dryness that they 
scarcely struggle against distractions, and so they remain 
without scruples, not only, as they imagine, in a state of 
aridity, but in a veritable condition of interior dissipation. 

We must, on the contrary, strive against vain thoughts, 
complain lovingly to our Lord, make acts of humility 
confessing our misery, take a book and read it attentively, 
until the spirit is freed from its distraction ; or, again, kiss 
the crucifix, making repeated acts of love. " If, after all 
this, you are still not consoled, do not be disturbed, how 
ever great your dryness may be, but remain devoutly in 
the presence of your God. How many courtiers are there 
who go a hundred times a year into the Prince s chamber 
without any hope of speaking to him, but only to be seen 
by him and to pay their respects ! So should we come, 
my dear Philothea, to holy prayer, purely and simply to 
pay our respects and show our fidelity. When it pleases 
the Divine Majesty to speak to us, and converse with us 
by means of His holy inspiration and interior consolations, 
doubtless it will be a great honour and a most delightful 
pleasure ; but if it does not please Him to do us this honour, 
leaving us there without saying anything to us, just as if 
He did not see us and we were not in His presence, we 
ought not to go away ; on the contrary, we should remain 
there before the Sovereign Goodness with a devoted and 
peaceful demeanour, and then infallibly He will be pleased 
with our patience and will take notice of our assiduity and 
perseverance " (Devout Life). 

2. Which are the Souls most liable to Aridities ? 

295. When speaking of the Christians of the third 
degree, we distinguished amongst them 



2 7 2 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

(1) The beginners who have not been able to make great 
progress, but whom God treats like little children, giving 
them, for the encouragement of their good-will, the milk 
of sensible consolations. Affective prayer, such as we have 
described, is that which is most suitable for them. 

(2) Belated souls, who ought to be more advanced in 
perfection, but who have remained in the illuminative 
life, and have not been able to reach the unitive life, 
because they have not given themselves whole-heartedly 
to the practice of renunciation. These latter, we said, are 
very numerous. We showed that at the end of a certain 
time their sensible impressions become weaker, pious 
considerations no longer produce the same emotions, and, 
not having been versed in contemplation, it follows that 
they are very liable to dryness and aridity. 

The greater number, however, understanding the im 
portance of prayer, remain faithful to it, and this fidelity, 
which is very meritorious, prevents them from falling 
away. 

It is only by the aid of a book, however, that they can 
continue to practise mental prayer, struggling and fighting 
against aridity in the way that St. Francis of Sales has 
described above. They will do well to recommend to 
God in their prayers the works which contribute to His 
glory and which they have at heart, always provided 
that they do not make this an occasion to fall into unprofit 
able reveries, which would be no longer a prayer, but a mere 
excursion of the imagination. 



3. Mortification as a Remedy for Dryness Its Necessity 
for Prayerful Souls. 

296. Finally, and above all, these persons must realize, 
and their director cannot too often remind them of it, 
that they will not taste of the joys of prayer, or draw any 
benefit from it, unless they apply themselves simultaneously 
to the practice of mortification. St. Bernard (Third 



DIFFICULTIES OF AFFECTIVE PRAYER 273 

Sermon for the Ascension, No. 7), speaking of those imper 
fect religious who do not share in the consolation of their 
more fervent brethren, explains the cause thus : " They 
seek to procure miserable consolations for their carnal 
nature by words, actions, or any other means. If for a 
time they deprive themselves of these, they never entirely 
renounce them. So ... their compunction is not con 
tinual ; it only lasts a few hours what do I say ? a few 
instants. A soul which is a slave to these preoccupations 
cannot be satisfied by the visits of the Lord. Impleri 
visitationibus Domini anima non potest qua his distrac- 
tionibus subjacet. The more it is able to empty itself of 
the first, the more will it be filled with the second. If it 
empties itself generously it will be abundantly filled ; it 
will receive little if it empties itself little." 

" During our prayer," said St. Vincent de Paul to the 
priests of his company, " I thought within myself how it 
could come about that some make so little progress in 
this holy exercise of meditation. There is reason to fear 
that the cause of this evil lies in the fact that they do not 
exercise themselves sufficiently in mortification, and that 
they give too much liberty to their senses. If we read 
what the wisest masters of the spiritual life have written 
concerning prayer, we shall see that all unanimously have 
held that the practice of mortification is absolutely neces 
sary if we would pray well, and that in order to put our 
selves in proper dispositions for it we must mortify not 
only our eyes, tongue, ears, and our other exterior senses, 
but also the faculties of the soul the understanding, the 
memory, and the will. By this means mortification will 
dispose us to pray well, and reciprocally the prayer will 
assist us to a right practice of mortification." 

" Mortification and prayer," says St. Jane Frances, " are 
the two wings of a dove on which we may fly away into 
some holy retreat and find our rest in God, far from the 
tumult of men. Birds cannot soar aloft with one wing 
only, so we must not think that with mortification alone, 

VOL. i. 18 



274 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

and without prayer, a soul can take flight that it may 
rise "to God. Mortification without prayer is labour lost ; 
prayer without mortification is like meat without salt : it 
easily corrupts. We needs must, then, give our souls these 
two wings on which to take flight to the heavenly court, 
where we shall find a fullness of satisfaction of heart in our 
conversation with God." 

" Without mortification," said the Venerable Mary of 
the Incarnation, " there is no true prayer and no real 
interior spirit. One must keep step with the other, other 
wise we may be suspicious of all our devotions. Mortifica 
tion and prayer are twin sisters who cannot be parted. 
If one dies the other likewise perishes " (Life of the Vener 
able Mary of the Incarnation, by the Abbe Chapot, Part ii., 
chap. v.). 



BOOK IV 

FOURTH DEGREE FERVOUR 
CHAPTER I 

THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 

i. How Fervent Souls comprehend Evangelical Abnegation 
much better than do Pious Souls. 

297. WE have already explained (150) what the illumina 
tive life is. In this life we distinguish two degrees the 
state of simple piety, which we have described, and the 
state of fervour, of which we have still to speak. 

Pious souls, as we have said, not satisfied with avoiding 
grave sins and ensuring their salvation, have a sincere and 
constant resolution to apply themselves to the service of 
God and the practice of the Christian virtues. But, beside 
these excellent dispositions, there is a regrettable lacuna : 
they do not sufficiently understand the renunciation of the 
Gospel, and do not set themselves to acquire it. From this, 
as we have shown, many defects arise. 

Fervent souls have a better understanding of Christian 
abnegation, and strive sincerely to acquire it. Firmly con 
vinced that God has not placed them on the earth for 
their own enjoyment and satisfaction, but in order to gain 
heaven by trials and struggles, they seek to deny them 
selves in everything and always. So we no longer find in 
them the distressing effects of which we have spoken 
that foolish vanity, always full of itself or the slave of 

275 18 2 



276 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

human judgments ; that grudging susceptibility ; those 
personal, not to say egotistical, preoccupations which 
many excellent people introduce into their good works ; 
that excessive love of self, of ease, of comfort, which 
in too many Christians is allied to an active and profound 
faith, and which detracts from their really good qualities. 
Fervent souls, it is true, have not yet arrived at perfec 
tion, but their faults are only trivial, due to frailty, and 
always sincerely regretted. They no longer proceed from 
those habitual and permanent dispositions which they 
disguise from themselves, excuse, or only combat weakly, 
as in the case of the state of simple piety. The fervent 
soul knows itself. It does not seek to justify itself in its 
own eyes, and has a sincere desire of amending those im 
perfections which it admits and deplores. 

2. Character and Extent of the Charity of Fervent Souls. 

298. The fervent soul will be more effectually portrayed 
if we show in what respect it is superior to the simply 
pious soul in the practice of the Christian virtues. We 
will begin with the first and most important Charity. 

It will not, perhaps, be superfluous to call to mind what 
theologians say of charity. Every one is bound to love 
God above all things else ; that condition is necessary in 
order to remain in the state of grace. But what exactly 
is it to love God more than anything else ? To love God 
more than anything else is, first, to be better disposed to 
Him than to any other being whatsoever. Amor objective 
summus. In the second place, it is to have so much 
esteem for, and to hold so much to His affection that we 
would prefer to lose all rather than be separated from 
Him. Amor appretiative summus. 

We may, again, have a more vehement and intense love 
for God than for anything else, and, indeed, God merits it. 
It is thus that all the elect in heaven love Him, but not 
all the just upon earth. God does not command this more 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 277 

intense love, and the reason given by the theologians is as 
follows (cf. Billuart, De Charitate, Diss. iv., Art. i.). 

The will is forcibly impelled towards the object of its 
love in proportion to the strength of the impression which 
is made upon it. Sensible objects, however, touch us more 
directly and move us more forcibly than those which are 
spiritual, without, for all that, being necessarily preferred ; 
just as we feel more liking for a present object which strikes 
the senses a beautiful garment or an agreeable dish, for 
example and nevertheless prefer to those things which 
we consider of little value others for which we do not feel 
such a lively emotion i.e., the money that we should have 
to spend in order to procure them. 

The love which God must necessarily require of His 
creatures is, therefore, a love of preference, and this 
essential charity will not be destroyed by other more 
violent affections, provided that these leave the first place 
to God. It will only be destroyed by mortal sin. 

299. People ask, sometimes, how venial sin can exist 
together with this virtue of charity which must give God 
the first place in everything. Does he who commits a 
venial fault really love God above all ? For instance, 
when a vain person voluntarily and deliberately gives way 
to his failing, does he not prefer the satisfaction of his 
vanity to God ? No ; he indeed refuses an act of renuncia 
tion to God, but he only yields to his passion because he 
knows quite well that he can still remain the friend of 
God. His disposition with regard to God continues such 
that if he saw in this culpable action a cause of rupture 
with Him he would immediately sacrifice his vanity. 
Therefore he prefers God to this vanity, and that is why 
he only commits a venial sin (cf. St. Thomas, I, IP , q. 88, 
art. i, ad 2 et 3 ; Billuart, De Peccatis, Diss. viii., Art. iv., 2). 

It is just the same, and more obviously so, if it is a 
question of an imperfection. Such an act of self-denial, 
for example, as to choose some food which pleases me less, 
and leave that which I prefer, would be more pleasing to 



278 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

God, but God does not impose it upon me. He leaves me 
free, and I make use of my liberty. If God commanded 
me under pain of venial sin, I would obey immediately ; 
but He does not do so. Besides, the action is good and 
legitimate, since the end, which is to take nourishment, is 
good. True, there is an imperfection in performing a less 
good action when we see clearly that we might accomplish 
a better. But that is evidently not preferring the creature 
to God. 

300. Now, what motive will he be obeying who prefers 
God to all things, who would not for the world cut himself 
adrift from Him by mortal sin ? It may be a motive of 
fear, to avoid hell ; it may be a motive of hope, to obtain 
the beatific vision and enjoy the possession of God for all 
eternity (amor concupiscentice) ; it may be one of gratitude 
for all God s benefits ; or, finally, one of love because of 
His infinite worthiness of love, and without any reference 
to self. This last motive constitutes perfect charity 
(formaliter perfecta). 

301. These points understood, it will be easy to show 
upon what the value of the act of charity depends. This 
act is, in fact, more or less meritorious and perfect accord 
ing to its extent, its intensity, and its motive. 

First, according to its extent. The act of charity neces 
sarily excludes all mortal sin, but the act will be more 
perfect if it goes to the length of rejecting all venial sin. 
It will be more perfect still (actus charitatis extensive per- 
fectce) if, casting aside every imperfection, it implies the 
resolution to do always and in all things that which is 
most pleasing to God. 

In the second place, the value of charity is measured 
by its intensity and solidity. We join the two things, 
the second quality being the sign of the first. One person 
may wish to give up every venial sin, and even every im 
perfection, but with an inconstant and weak, although 
sincere, will ; whilst in another the same resolution will be 
firmer and more energetic. Later on the act of love will 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 279 

be more perfect. The charity (intensiva perfecta) which 
excludes every failing is only possible in heaven. 

Finally, the value of the act of love towards God varies 
according to the perfection of the motive which inspires 
it. It is clear that the motive of fear is inferior to that 
of hope or gratitude, while that of the Divine perfections 
and fitness to be loved is the purest of all. 

302. These different motives can coexist simultaneously 
in the same soul and in the same act, but they are none 
the less very different. The motive proceeding from the 
Divine perfections must always be joined to others, for we 
must always place God above all else as an intellectual 
principle, at any rate and that sovereign love of God 
brings with it necessarily the beginnings of a love for God 
for Himself. We say the beginnings, for whilst loving 
God because of His perfections the will may not be entirely 
determined to prefer Him to all else ; for this it may need 
the influence of lower motives, such as fear and grati 
tude. 

But if these different motives produce acts complete in 
genere suo that is to say, not a fancy, an impotent desire, 
but a real determination to avoid mortal sin the merit 
of the one is not altered by the presence of the other. If 
the act of perfect charity exists even in its lowest degree, 
in infimo gradu, as the theologians have it that is to say, 
if the love of God founded upon His infinite perfection, 
weak though its influence may be, acts nevertheless with 
sufficient strength upon the will to determine it to avoid 
mortal sin, the soul is immediately justified. Further, 
other less perfect considerations, such as the desire for the 
beatific vision, the fear of the Divine judgments, or feelings 
of gratitude for God s benefits, which on their side tend 
to the same determination, in no wa*y detract from the 
merit of charity. They do not at all prevent, for example, 
the effects of perfect contrition which is the reconciliation 
of the sinner with God. 

303. Having accepted these principles, it is easy to 



280 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

apply them to the different classes of Christians whom 
we have already specified. The act of charity or of per 
fect contrition derived from the goodness of God in Him 
self, an act which is not so rare as some people seem to 
believe, is nevertheless scarcely ever encountered at the 
beginning of the spiritual life. Beginners who are only 
partially detached from self and only slightly affected by 
the Divine perfections are, as a rule, established in a sincere 
resolution to avoid mortal sin by less disinterested motives. 
The fear of God especially has a great part in this deter 
mination to prefer this friendship before all things. It is 
true that these supernatural but less noble motives fear, 
hope, gratitude may be useful as rungs of a ladder on 
which to rise to a more perfect love. In fact, when the 
will is already established in well-doing, when it has no 
temptations, or for well-weighed reasons of a personal 
advantage has sincerely renounced every gravely unlawful 
act, it becomes easy to it to reject with an equal sincerity 
these same bad actions as being displeasing to God, the 
sovereign Good, and so attrition may lead to contrition, and 
the love of concupiscence or gratitude to charity (cf. Sum. 
Theol., II, IP , q. 26, art. 3). But this is not very common 
with those who still remain in the purgative life, because 
they are not disposed towards this sort of consideration. 
Their thoughts do not turn sufficiently often upon super 
natural things to allow of this act of true charity being 
frequently renewed. Besides, it is not very intense, and 
often does not go as far as hatred of all venial faults. As 
for imperfections, as a rule they pay no heed to them. 

304. Among other less perfect acts of love, pious Chris 
tians produce many acts of true charity. Even the re 
membrance of God s benefits, although directly engender 
ing acts of gratitucfe, may lead to the exercise of pure 
charity, for, whilst it represents His infinite goodness to 
them, it makes them more and more attentive to His per 
fections. And further, they have such a lively horror of 
mortal sin (and those even who sometimes succumb to it 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 281 

through impulse, as it were by assault, are immediately 
profoundly repentant), that the justifying act of charity or 
perfect contrition springs quite spontaneously from their 
hearts, provided that they are ever on their guard against 
that discouragement into which the devil always strives 
to cast them. But these acts of charity are not very in 
tense : sufficiently firm with regard to the avoidance of 
mortal sin, they are much less so with all that concerns 
the renunciation of venial sins, and especially imperfec 
tions ; for the simply pious Christians scarcely trouble 
themselves about imperfections. 

305. In fervent Christians the acts of pure charity have 
become more frequent, and are much more perfect under 
all circumstances. Their faith being more lively, their 
intelligence more enlightened, they comprehend better, 
and delight more in the beauty, the grandeur, and the 
holiness of God (amor complacentice) . Their renunciation, 
too, being more complete, it costs them nothing to eschew 
mortal sin, and they even go much further. When they 
make protestation of their love for God, which they do 
frequently, more or less explicitly, they renounce not only 
grave faults, but also those which are venial, and imper 
fections. Finally, the value of their charity is again 
enhanced by the fact that their desire to please God and 
to see Him glorified (amor benevolenticz) is more active, 
their hatred of mortal sin more powerful and stronger 
than in less perfect Christians, and their resolution of 
avoiding slight faults and imperfections is at least sincere, 
if not very firm. So, from the triple point of view of the 
motive, extent, and intensity of their acts of love, their 
merit is superior to that of pious souls. We say that it is 
also much greater by reason of the frequency of these acts 
of Divine love. In fact, the hearts of these Christians are 
lifted up to God habitually ; it may be either in affective 
acts which they direct towards Him, the object of their 
love ; or, again, in the actual works which they accom 
plish, the duties they fulfil, which are offered to God and 



282 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

performed with a loving submission to His will ; the patience 
with which they endure trials here below, and the victories 
which they win whilst striving against temptations. All 
these are true acts of charity. The love of God is not an 
incident in, but the very foundation of, their lives, for they 
are animated by a continual desire to refer everything to 
God. " Night and day," says Suzo of the inhabitants of 
the fourth rock, " they strive with great solicitude to over 
come their nature and to conquer themselves." 

All this, doubtless, does not proceed from charity alone. 
Gratitude towards God, carefulness as to the interests of 
their souls, and the increasing of their eternal merits, 
are largely responsible for the holy stamp which they 
impress upon their entire lives, and these are very legiti 
mate motives, inspired by faith, and consequently super 
natural and meritorious. It is no less true that acts of 
disinterested charity, complacency, or good-will are not 
rare in them, and that their love is truly fervent. 

3. Other Virtues of Fervent Souls. 

306. From this fervour of love naturally spring other 
virtues, which beginners and even pious souls do not 
possess to the same degree. First of all, a great confidence 
in God. How could the fervent heart be other than full 
of confidence, when it feels that it loves God and under 
stands that it is loved by Him ? " After interior sweet 
ness and dilation the soul is no longer as restrained as 
before in God s service, but possesses much more liberty 
of spirit. It is less distressed by the fear of hell, for 
though more anxious than ever not to offend God, it has 
lost servile fear, and feels sure that one day it will possess 
its Lord " (Fourth Mansion, chap. h i., 8). 

Its confidence goes further still. Relying upon God s 
assistance, it believes itself capable, by the help of grace, 
of the most difficult works that He may require. St. Teresa, 
who wrote especially for Carmelites, who are called by 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 283 

vocation to the practice of austerities, notices here the 
eagerness of the soul for penance. The Saint had shown 
in the preceding mansion the fearful soul, not daring to 
mortify itself lest it should injure its health. She had 
good-naturedly ridiculed this extreme discretion which 
persons who are neither very courageous or loving bring 
into the practice of penance. Henceforth, " free from the 
former apprehension of injuring its health by austerities, 
the soul believes that there are none which it cannot 
practise with God s help, and so desires to perform still 
greater penances " (Fourth Mansion, chap, iii., 8). 

307. One of the clearest marks distinguishing the fervent 
soul from the simply pious is patience, which is greatly 
strengthened in the first named. " Greater indifference 
is felt for sufferings, because, faith being stronger, it trusts 
that if borne for God He will give the grace to endure 
them patiently. Indeed, such a one even longs for trials 
at times, having a most ardent desire to do something for 
His sake " (St. Teresa, loc. cit.). 

Pious souls, however, understand the necessity of ac 
cepting the contradictions of life, and strive to do so, but 
how many failures there are ! They are never satisfied 
with the crosses that God sends them ; they think and they 
declare that they would be ready to surfer anything else, 
but not that which comes to them. Fervent souls leave 
it to God, in His wisdom, to choose the trials that He 
thinks the most useful for their advancement. They do 
not presume to remonstrate with so good a God, and, like 
well-behaved children, who accept equally from their 
mother bitter remedies and sweet cakes, they are sub 
missive to the Divine will, whether it brings them consola 
tions or trials. 

" And what is best in all this is that the troubles, humilia 
tions, and other spiritual evils which formerly tended solely 
in the direction of alienating the soul from God, filling it 
with self, maintaining it in a kind of incapacity and in 
aptitude for devoting itself to God and Divine things, these 



284 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

now have a contrary effect. The more violent the troubles 
and tribulations, the more closely is the soul united to 
God, and the more also does it apply itself vigorously to 
the Divine works that it has in hand ; so the direct result 
of these troubles is to unite the soul to God " (Libermann, 
Letter to the Director of a Seminary, April 28, 1839). 

308. It goes without saying that the other virtues have 
progressed in like manner : its humility is more profound. 
" As the soul better understands the Divine majesty, it 
realizes more vividly its own baseness " (St. Teresa, 
loc. cit.). 

Its detachment from the world is more complete. 
" Divine consolations show it how vile are earthly pleasures ; 
gradually withdrawing itself from them, it gains more 
mastery over itself " (ibid.). 

If it strives to procure the good of its neighbours, it is 
rather by a sentiment of Christian charity than by a 
natural movement of sympathy or compassion, so it desires 
much more the spiritual welfare of those it loves than their 
temporal satisfaction. 

If, then, we see it condescending, affectionate, maternal, 
forgetful of self with those who suffer, let us take care not 
to attribute this devotion to natural sympathy or to the 
pity which the sight of human suffering gives birth to in 
well- disposed hearts. The fervent soul has more exalted 
views ; it knows for what end God permits suffering, and 
whilst alleviating the pain, it wishes to assist its neighbour 
to obtain profit therefrom. It suffers, indeed, when it 
sees those whom it loves suffering ; but this natural and 
very legitimate compassion is dominated by the con 
siderations of faith which guide it in its whole conduct. 

309. All these acts of faith, submission to the will of 
God, of detachment, charity, etc., are generally much 
swifter than in the case of pious souls. It is no longer by 
force of reasoning that we accept the troubles of life or 
fulfil life s duties ; at the very first glance the soul, full of 
faith, recognizes the Divine will, and understands the 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 285 



obligation to adhere to it. Besides, its will is established 
in God. Freed at least, to a great extent from that 
multitude of natural affections and self-seekings which 
curtail the liberty of the pious soul, it goes directly to God, 
and acts unhesitatingly with justice and purity of inten 
tion (cf. Libermann, Letter to the Director of a Seminary, 
April 28, 1839). 

310. So disposed, these souls commit comparatively few 
sins. We must not blindly credit the self -accusations of 
penitents themselves on this point. Some accuse them 
selves of everything bad which they feel in themselves ; 
others, who are not on that account more perfect, but who 
are entirely convinced that only that which has the consent 
of the will is culpable, do not mention the many evil 
inclinations of which they are conscious, but to which they 
do not yield, or where consent is so slight that their 
own culpability escapes them. " Do not trouble," wrote 
St. Francis of Sales to Madame de la Valbonne, " because 
you do not perceive all your little falls in order to confess 
them. No, my child, for as you often fall without noticing 
it, so you often arise again unconsciously " (Letter, May 15, 
1627). 

When a soul, backward in other respects, finds only 
few or no sins to confess, we must conclude that it 
is not very clear-sighted, and has an imperfect knowledge 
of itself. If, on the other hand, that soul has all the signs 
of fervour, we must not disturb it by reproaching it for its 
blindness, since we plainly see that a too high opinion of 
itself does not result. 

311. Further, let us remark, as being to the credit of 
fervent Christians, that, as a consequence of being more 
detached from self, they have acquired, all other things 
being equal, a much surer and juster judgment. Granted 
equality of intelligence, therefore, an imperfect Christian 
over-enamoured of his own ideas and too much attached, 
in particular, to his own will, who cannot bear to be con 
tradicted and flouted, is often unconsciously unjust towards 



286 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

those whose actions interfere with his plans. The fervent 
Christian, more practised in renunciation, more emanci 
pated from all personal interests, is for that very reason 
more impartial in his judgments, and less liable to err. 



4. The Imperfections of Fervent Souls. 

312. After this picture we may perhaps be tempted 
to say, like Blessed Suzo, when God had shown him the 
inhabitants of the fourth rock, and described their in 
terior dispositions, " Lord, they must be dear to Thee, 
for they are perfect." And, indeed, worldly people, when 
well disposed for we must always make allowance for 
human malice rightly admire the exemplary sentiments 
and conduct to which they themselves are such strangers. 
They are astonished at them, and are quickly inclined to 
canonize these fervent souls. 

Such, however, is not the verdict of the Saints. " They 
are dear to Me," our Lord replies to Suzo," but they are 
not yet perfect. . . . The devil deceives them by his wiles. 
. . . They fall into his snares through performing their 
actions with complacency and self-will. . . . Although 
they are far advanced in My grace and friendship, the lack 
of detachment from their own will deprives them of those 
particular and secret favours which I grant to My well- 
beloved ; and because of that imperfection which is in 
them they will have to be purified in the flames of pur 
gatory, and will have a lower place in heaven than My 
intimate friends." 

St. Teresa urges " those who have reached this state to 
avoid most carefully all occasions of offending God. The 
soul is not yet fully established in virtue, but is like a new 
born babe first feeding at his mother s breast : if it leaves 
her, what can it do but die ?" (Fourth Mansion, chap, iii., 

9)- 

313. So, although the excellent dispositions that we 
have described have become the ordinary dispositions of 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 287 

these persons, some failings are still to be met with in them ; 
they are more ardent than firm. They have, indeed, a 
sincere desire to renounce themselves at all times and in 
all things, and they accomplish frequent and generous 
acts of self-denial ; but, nevertheless, they are still far 
from absolute renunciation ; they have grand views of 
perfection rather than perfection really acquired. 

Experiencing within themselves lively sentiments of 
the love of God, ardent desires of consecrating their whole 
life to Him, they are inclined to deceive themselves, and to 
think that there is no longer any room in them for self-love. 
" You tell me," St. Francis of Sales wrote to a lady, 
" that in whatever surroundings God places you it is all 
the same to you. But, come ! you know quite well in 
what surroundings He has placed you, and is it all the 
same to you ? Neither are you ignorant that He wishes 
you to pay this daily debt concerning which you write, 
and, nevertheless, that is not all the same to you. . . . 
Mother Teresa, whom you love so much (of which I am 
glad), says somewhere that we often say such things by 
force of habit and lightly, thinking that we say them from 
the bottom of our hearts, although it is nothing of the sort, 
as we find out afterwards in practice " (ed. Briday, 
vol. vi., p. 382). 

Again, we see that their renunciation is far from having 
attained the degree to which they aspire, in that certain 
entirely natural preoccupations which they wish to get 
rid of, remain and pursue and harass them ; we see it, also, 
in their still paying too much attention to vain tittle-tattle 
on current topics, worldly news, political or otherwise. 
As they have not yet experienced those severe trials which 
cut off all attachments and give true abnegation to the 
soul, they are still too fond of many things upon earth ; 
we see them taking pleasure in earthly satisfactions and 
delights, although moderately and, as a rule, without 
offending God. 

They would like, as we have said, to mortify themselves 



288 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

in all things ; but often when nature finds some satisfaction 
without having sought for it, they rest in it, they accept 
the pleasure, telling themselves all the time that it would 
be much better to give it up : but their courage is not equal 
to the enlightenment of their faith. If the satisfaction 
that is enjoyed is taken away, the fervent soul willingly 
and immediately submits, for it knows the value of crosses, 
and it is glad to have this sacrifice to offer to God ; but let 
it not on that account flatter itself that it has attained 
perfect abnegation. Soon, alas ! other occasions will 
present themselves in which it will have a fresh proof of 
its weakness. How many times will it be able to say 
again : Video meliorct proboque, deleriora sequor (I see the 
good, I approve it, and I do the evil) ! So, to give a 
sufficiently common example, these persons will have 
formed the purpose of beginning the day by a little sacri 
fice which, although it appears quite trivial, costs nature 
something getting out of bed as soon as they are called 
without delay ; and then, when the time comes, there 
they lie on ! Others resolve to make their meals an occa 
sion of mortification, and then yield to sensuality, etc. 
The resolutions are sincere, but they fail at the moment 
of execution. 

Without the stubbornness and obstinacy which many 
pious souls show, there are still numerous circumstances 
in which they hold, more or less consciously, to their own 
will, and when the little events of life do not fall out 
according to their taste, they only half resign themselves, 
and retain a secret feeling of discontent at the bottom of 
their hearts. Then, again, far more than they are aware 
of, a natural eagerness mingles even in their good desires ; 
human sentiments enter into their joys and sorrows, their 
hopes and fears. 

315. In the acts of renunciation which they make so 
often and sincerely, some desire of greatness remains, 
some wish to rise higher, but solely in spiritual things. 
They are too much enlightened not to disdain worldly 



THE PORTRAIT OF A FERVENT SOUL 289 

honours, to seek eagerly after those little human successes 
in which the vanity of imperfect souls takes delight, but 
they have not an equal disinterestedness with regard to 
spiritual advantages. So they make occasions for self- 
appreciation even from the crosses which Providence sends 
them (c/.Libermann,L^&Tii3, July 8, 1838, and Letter 191). 
Frequently, besides, they exaggerate their troubles, and 
easily persuade themselves that few souls have trials as 
severe as theirs. Hence it follows that they do not always 
rejoice at the good done by others, as we should have the 
right to expect. " It is for this reason " (because self-love 
is not dead) " that we have not the satisfaction that we 
ought to have in seeing others do well ; for what we do not 
see in ourselves seems of slight value to us, and what we 
do see in ourselves appears exceedingly admirable, because 
we love ourselves so tenderly " (St. Francis of Sales, 
Letter to a Religious, written in 1615). Do we not find 
very good persons judging their own deeds favourably, 
and those of others severely ? 

316. We said that fervent souls generally have great 
confidence in God. In many, combined with this senti 
ment, there is a self-assurance which is not free from rash 
ness ; in others, on the contrary, this confidence leaves 
much to be desired. It may be that they count too much 
upon human means, or do not rely sufficiently upon the 
boundless, the fatherly, providence of God. There is a 
remnant of human feeling, of worldly prudence which we 
do not find in the true friends of God. 

317. The reader will remember the description given 
above (No. 241) of undue eagerness. Now, among those 
of whom we speak, who, though advanced in piety, have 
not attained perfection, a great number are very subject 
to this failing. 1 

1 " The third kind of precipitation is met with in those who are 
really good, and truly mortified as to the malice, although not at all 
so with regard to the activity, of their nature. They act from virtue, 
and do not appear to have any faults, but, because of this activity, 

VOL. I. 19 



290 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Others, again, despite their sincere desire for absolute 
perfection, still have a great fund of softness and faint 
heartedness. In both we remark very noticeable alter 
nations, ups and downs times of fervour and then of 
half-heartedness. When a soul which has emerged from 
the period of sensible graces remains without any fluctua 
tions in its ardent and generous dispositions, it has then 
attained to the state of perfection. 

318. In short, fervent souls are superior to pious souls, 
who, " although firmly resolved to love God, are, never 
theless, still novices, tender and weak apprentices. They 
indeed love the Divine sweetness, but with an intermingling 
of other affections ; their sacred love being still in its infancy, 
they love many superfluous, vain, and dangerous objects, 
together with our Lord." 

Fervent souls " have cut off all love for harmful things, 
and yet they are not without dangerous and superfluous 
affections, for they love those things which God wishes 
them to Love, but with excess and a love which is over- 
tender and passionate. . . . These souls, then, indeed love 
too ardently and with superfluity, but they do not love 
superfluities, but only what is lawfully loved (Love of God, 
Book X., chap. iv.). 

nature often takes the initiative in many things, and forestalls the 
action of grace, hindering perfection and the interior life of Jesus 
Christ within them, and often even of the Divine life, which meets 
with opposition, because by this very activity (although in no way 
evil) they act of themselves when they ought to give place to the 
Holy Spirit, who would do much more and incomparably better 
than they. But because the Holy Spirit only enters in when 
nature is dead, to establish there His sweet and holy life, and because, 
besides, He is, as it were, timid and gentle, seeing nature pushing 
itself forward, He draws back and cannot perform the great things 
which He works in those whom he possesses wholly ; and this some 
times happens solely by the obstacle of that activity which always 
originates in some self-love " (Surin., Catech., vol. ii., part i., chap. v.). 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 291 

CHAPTER II 

THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 

i. How the Soul attains to the State of Fervour. 

319. FERVENT souls, therefore, are those who have a sincere 
desire of renouncing themselves in all things, and who really 
endeavour to arrive at this perfect abnegation, but without 
having yet attained thereto. 

The first souls to conceive this laudable and excellent 
desire are those who have been favoured with very abun 
dant, sensible graces. Through the channel of their 
affective prayers, which were so sweet and so resolute, and 
in which a mingling of their first contemplative favours 
soon appeared, they have received much light. God, Who 
wishes to lead them to perfection, has shown them all its 
extent and its advantages. The impressions of grace, as 
we have already remarked, are stronger and more abundant 
in those souls who lead a recollected and mortified life. 
Even in them, however, sensible favours will not produce 
all their effects at once. At first they will not face this 
incessant renunciation as the goal of their efforts. Little 
by little the light grows within them. One person will 
make a beginning with a lively sorrow for his sins ; he will 
feel heartbroken for having offended God. If, under the 
impression of this sentiment, he shows himself more and 
more faithful in recollection and mortification, it will 
grow stronger, pursuing him into his work, inspiring in 
him an ever more and more ardent love for God, and 
leading him insensibly by way of repentance to a desire 
for complete renunciation. Others arrive at this desire 
by the consideration of the Cross and the sufferings of 
our Lord. If the soul which feels moved by the thought 
of this mystery preserves a continual remembrance ther eof 
within itself, if it can put aside the distractions and pre 
occupations which weaken its impression, if it strives to 
give back to Jesus Crucified devotion for devotion, sacrifice 

19 2 



202 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

for sacrifice, it will soon feel inflamed with love for the 
Cross and a desire to suffer for our Lord, and to immolate 
itself wholly for Him. 

This latter way is the shortest and most effectual ; it 
is the quickest road to contemplation and fervour (cf. 
Ven. Fr. Libermann, Writings, p. 165). Many reach the 
same result by way of other considerations ; for in the 
greatest number of cases not one consideration only, but 
the combined result of all the lights received in prayer and 
moments of recollection, will enlighten them, little by little, 
upon the necessity of dying to themselves, and will inspire 
them with a sincere desire of living henceforth for God alone. 

321. Those who pray less will obviously receive less help 
from this holy exercise. They may, however, arrive at 
dispositions equivalent to those of which we have just 
spoken, by a less direct and easy route namely, by a 
certain fidelity to the duties of their state and the generous 
acceptance of the sacrifices which these duties impose upon 
them. If they thus habituate themselves to act, not from 
self-love, but purely from obedience to God, and this even 
when they are deprived of those spiritual delights which 
are such a source of strength to pious souls ; if they are 
constantly forgetful of self in order that they may devote 
themselves better to God s service and that of their neigh 
bour, they are confirmed in the practice of renunciation, 
and their actions become highly meritorious. 

There are others, especially amongst those that live in 
the world, who devote themselves still less to prayer, 
properly so called, but to whom Providence sends severe 
and repeated trials ; their life is one continual succession 
of bitternesses, deceptions, contradictions, and worries. 
Everything is profitable to generous hearts, and these, 
by their submission, their confidence in God a confidence 
which these tempests leave unshaken by their prayers, 
which become more frequent as their trials increase their 
recourse to God being then, so to speak, continuous rise 
to, a high degree of love, and are truly fervent. 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 293 

322. Finally, God leads pious but imperfect souls to 
this disposition of fervour by allowing them to be assailed 
by violent temptations, against which they strive valiantly, 
and which oblige them to strip themselves of self. 

" I have seen," says the Ven. Father Libermann, " many 
young people in a more or less serious crisis ; it is a state 
of trial through which God makes many souls pass when 
He wishes to employ them in His service, in order to con 
solidate them and attach them unchangeably to Him. 
Well, not even one of those whom the temptation attacked 
upon several points at once, instead of concentrating itself 
upon one of the more dangerous passions not one aban 
doned the service of God, and all derived considerable 
benefit from the temptation. Amongst that smaller 
number which I have seen in whom the temptation was 
concentrated and focussed upon one important passion, I 
can only at this moment recollect one who fell from the grace 
of God, and failed in his vocation. So true it is that these 
trials are generally and almost universally given for the 
sanctification of souls " (Letter of June 16, 1850, quoted by 
Cardinal Pitra, Vie du Ven. Libermann). 

It is true that the counsels and prayers of a director like 
this must have powerfully assisted these souls in continuing 
in the right way. 

" Once," the Ven. Father says again, " I saw evidences 
of pride with regard to such a trial. I own that I felt 
extreme anxiety, because then I had not enough experience 
in the things of God. That was fifteen to eighteen 
years ago. He who was thus tried became an excellent 
priest, who perseveres in piety and fervour, and who has 
even attained to great humility, although he has always 
been placed in circumstances which favour pride " (Letter 
of May 4, 1851, quoted by Cardinal Pitra, Vie du Ven. Liber 
mann) . 

323. Such, in fact, are the ways by which God leads a 
soul to the desire of giving itself up entirely to Him, and, 
having conducted it so far, He strengthens it in these ex- 



294 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

cellent dispositions : ardent affective prayer, the generous 
fulfilment of unpleasant duties, tribulations and tempta 
tions. These different means are usually associated with, 
and mutually support, each other ; or, again, they may 
operate alternately, and, acting successively in the same 
direction, they are a source of rapid progress to faithful 
souls, as we shall now endeavour to show. 

2. How Souls gain Strength in Renunciation The Two 
Phases of Fervour : Sensible Fervour, Acquired Fervour 
The Night of the Senses Pure Faith. 

324. May we be allowed to retrace our steps for a 
moment, and recall certain principles which we are about 
to see in their application ? 

When the soul, we have said, yields itself seriously to 
God s service, bringing a real good-will to bear upon the 
endeavour, it soon finds itself forcibly urged on to the love 
of the Christian virtues by the graces that it receives ; 
and these graces, by their operations upon the senses and 
the imagination, touch the heart with such strength and 
sweetness, or they present such obvious reasons, such con 
vincing arguments to the mind, that it cannot, so to speak, 
rebel against them. After a period of varying duration, 
there comes about a transformation in these operations of 
grace : the sensibility grows fainter, the emotions are rarer 
and less sweet. The motives for engaging in God s service, 
which formerly made a great impression, no longer have the 
same powerful effect. 

The soul has not yet attained to a state of fervour if it 
has not conceived the generous resolution of giving up its 
own will in all things, of dying wholly to itself ; it remains, 
as it were, rooted in the state of simple piety, such as we 
have described ; deprived at least, in part of the sensible 
graces which formerly sustained it, its progress is then 
either completely arrested, or at least retarded. 1 

1 But one means of rising higher still remains. It may live in a 
state of recollection, and apply itself whole-heartedly to mortifica- 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 295 

325. But it often happens that when this transformation 
takes place the soul has already entered into fervour and 
the desire for perfect renunciation. In this case the crisis 
serves to strengthen it. To the violent affective sentiments 
a calmer disposition succeeds ; it has more solidity and no 
less energy. Fervour of will takes the place of sensible 
fervour, and contemplation, which has hitherto appeared 
at intervals only, may now become more frequent. 

In some cases this transformation is scarcely noticeable ; 
so resignedly do they accept the withdrawal of the sensible 
delights, so submissive are they to the Divine Will, that they 
never dream of complaining. Moreover, God may spare 
them the more distressing elements in this trial. Usually, 
however, the crisis is fraught with suffering. " When the 
Lord," says St. John of the Cross, " deprives these souls 
of sensible sweetnesses, He casts them into aridities and 
intense darkness, in order that He may deliver them from 
all their imperfections and childish fancies, and that they 
may acquire virtue by quite another manner. 

" God thus leaves them in darkness so great that they 
know not whither to betake themselves with their imagina 
tions and reflections of sense. They cannot now advance 
a single step in meditation, the inward sense being 
overwhelmed in this night, and abandoned to dryness 
so great that they have no more any joy or sweetness in 
their spiritual exercises, as they had before ; and in their 
place they find nothing but insipidity and bitterness. 
For, as I said before, God now, looking upon them as some 
what grown in grace, weans them from the breasts that they 
may become strong and cast their swaddling-clothes aside ; 
He carries them in His arms no longer, and shows them how 

tion (vide supra, Nos. 196, 204). For mortification, by drawing 
more graces down upon it, will finally bring it to the comprehension 
of the value of perfect abnegation, and it will strive earnestly to 
attain it. Or Providence may also ordain for it severe trials, and 
these, when courageously borne, will give it a new impetus towards 
the perfect life. 



296 THE, DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

to walk alone. All this is strange to them, for all things seem 
to go against them " (Obscure Night, Book I., chap. viii.). 

This crisis, this night of the senses, as St. John of the Cross 
calls it, is frequently rendered more painful still, because 
not only must the soul detach itself from the sensible sweet 
nesses which are so dear to it, but it must also come to a 
more correct knowledge of itself, and for this it is essential 
that it should undergo the most painful interior humilia 
tions. 

" The great secret of God s conduct with regard to a soul 
which He desires to sanctify," says Father Grou, "is to 
take from it every kind of confidence in itself, and to 
abandon it to its misery. To this end, He has only to with 
draw His sensible grace, to leave the soul to itself, to expose 
it to the lightest temptation. Soon it begins to feel dis 
taste and repugnance ; it sees obstacles and difficulties 
everywhere ; it succumbs on the least occasions ; a look, a 
gesture, a word, disconcert it this same soul which con 
sidered itself impervious to the greatest dangers. It flies 
to the opposite extremity ; it is afraid of everything ; it is 
discouraged, thinks that it will never be able to conquer 
itself in anything ; it is tempted to give up everything. 
And, indeed, it would do so if God did not quickly come to 
the rescue. 

" God continues these dealings with the soul until by 
repeated experiences He has quite convinced it of its 
nothingness, of its incapacity for all good, and of the neces 
sity of resting only upon Him. This is the purpose of the 
temptations to which it sees itself ready to succumb a 
hundred times, and in which God upholds it when all hope 
seems to be lost ; the revolt of passions which it thought 
to be extinct, and which now reassert their sway with such 
violence that the reason is obscured and the soul stands 
within a hair s-breadth of destruction ; faults of weakness 
of every kind into which God purposely allows the soul 
to fall in order to humble it ; disgusts, strange difficulties 
in the practice of the virtues, great repugnance to prayer, 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 297 

and the other exercises of piety ; in a word, the profound 
and lively consciousness of the malignity of nature, and its 
hatred for everything good. God employs all these means 
in order to annihilate the soul in its own eyes, to fill it with 
hatred and horror of itself, to convince it that there is 
no crime, however terrible, of which it is not capable not 
the least good action, not the least effort, not the least 
desire, nor the least good thought, which it is able to pro 
duce of itself " (Manual of Interior Souls, p. 89). 

Sometimes it even happens that the soul " is assailed 
by the spirit of blasphemy ; through all its thoughts pass 
frightful blasphemies, which are suggested to the imagina 
tion with such violence that it seems sometimes as if the 
mouth actually uttered them, which is an unspeakable 
torment " (Obscure Night, Book I., chap. xiv.). 

327. Those who undergo these intense temptations are 
amazed at them, and are sometimes absolutely disconcerted. 
They would be less surprised if they understood that the 
temptation is very often as much a punishment as a trial. 
Per qua quis peccat, per hczc et torquetur Wisd. xi. 17 
(By what things a man sinneth, by the same also is he 
tormented). You groan at the assaults to which the demon 
of anger, of jealousy and hatred, subjects you, but have you 
not exposed yourself to his attacks by neglecting the prac 
tice of humility, gentleness, fraternal charity ? Have you 
not increased the tempter s power by yielding more than 
once to his suggestions ? Each victory that you gain aug 
ments your strength, for it wins you more powerful graces : 
it weakens your bad inclinations, and strengthens your will ; 
but each of your failures gives your enemy an advantage over 
you. An army besieging a strong fortress becomes more 
formidable with each redoubt that it captures, each fort 
that it gains, and the besieged have more trouble in keeping 
the enemy at bay, until, at the cost of terrible sacrifices, 
they have reconquered all their lost ground. 

Temptations, to faithful souls, should be a lesson teach 
ing them with how much care they should watch over 



298 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

themselves, and avoid the occasions of sin. They are also 
an opportunity for expiation, a facility offered to souls by 
the mercy of God for the payment of the debt owing to His 
infinite justice ; and by that very fact it is an efficacious 
means of purification. It is as our Father that God 
punishes us, and whoever is willing to profit by the chas 
tisement must become better and more holy. 

Temptations and the revolts of nature, troubles and 
tribulations, do not, however, constitute the purification 
of the senses ; they are rather the accessory circumstances 
which usually accompany it and render it more complete. 

328. Considered by itself, purification, the night of the 
senses, consists of a continuous succession of aridities which 
deprive the soul, through no fault of its own, of the consolations 
which it formerly experienced, render the exercise of meditation 
very difficult, or practically impossible, and even cause it to 
feel a profound distaste for the things of this world. We say 
" through no fault of its own," because it may be that dry- 
ness is caused by wrong-doing, by slackness in God s service, 
by unregulated attachments wilfully entertained, which 
arrest every impulse towards good. If such were the cause, 
the aridity could be cured by returning generously to the 
practice of the Christian virtues, especially recollection and 
mortification. But if dryness is not brought about by any 
such cause, if it does not prevent frequent thoughts of God, 
and a sincere and constant desire of remaining faithful to 
Him in all things ; if it is accompanied by a lively anxiety 
arising from the fact that we cannot serve God and love Him 
as we would wish we must only see in this aridity and power- 
lessness an entirely providential trial. 

It is indeed the action of God ; He wishes to strengthen 
the soul, to raise it above the sensible faculties, and oblige 
it to enter into what has been called pure or naked faith. 
Grace then takes a new form ; it no longer directly affects 
the inferior part of the soul, where the sensible faculties 
are not even the superior part in which the reason holds 
its sway, but the supreme part in which these intuitions of 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 299 

the intellect are effected, where truth is perceived at a 
glance, and there is no need for long-drawn-out arguments. 
Then, in the absence of sensible consolations, and long argu 
ments having become wearisome, faith alone operates ; the 
mere recollection of the truths which it teaches sustains the soul, 
enlightens it, and directs its conduct. The soul believes in the 
goodness and the love of God no longer because it has the 
proofs before its eyes, or because of the intimate consola 
tions, sweet and powerful operations of grace, which reveal 
to it this goodness and love, but solely because God has 
declared it. Prayer becomes painful to it, but it perseveres 
therein in order that it may remain faithful to God. Apart 
from prayer, its condition does not change ; in all that it 
does it relies upon pure faith, and acts by the will alone, 
without reasoning and without enjoyment, so soon as the 
duty is clear, and this even in unpremeditated actions 
which are not facilitated by previously acquired habits. 1 

As soon as a soul has begun seriously to lead this life of 
pure faith, if it has not attained the supreme heights of 
virtue, it has at least entered into what we have called the 
fervour of the will, which succeeds to sensible fervour. 

329. We must not thence conclude that Christians who 
have acquired this spiritual fervour will have emerged com 
pletely from the sensible way. They will still from time to 
time feel those sweet and powerful emotions which we de 
scribed at the beginning of Book III.; striking considerations 
will present themselves to their minds ; certain books will 
affect them warmly ; or, again, ceremonies at which they 
assist will impress them beneficially ; sometimes their pious 
exercises prayer, Holy Communion will afford them sweet 
consolations ; God will thus occasionally reanimate their good 
dispositions by means of these sensible graces. But these 

1 It is true that in less advanced Christians (third degree) we meet 
with these rapid acts of renunciation, victories over nature won with 
out a struggle, even with regard to good works which might be omitted 
without sin, but in these cases this prompt renunciation is explained 
either by the assistance of sensible graces or by acquired habits. 



300 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

consolations are not by any means so continuous as they 
were at the beginning, and this it is which partially explains 
the alternations which we notice in their piety. Thus, a 
few days retreat will rekindle their ardour, while, on the 
other hand, the absence of spiritual help will be very in 
jurious to them. 

Meanwhile the truth of what we have said remains. 
Over and above their sensible fervour these souls retain an 
acquired fervour, as it were, which resides in the will, and 
enables them to practise acts of abnegation without any 
inclination or attraction. 



3. How and why Many Souls never rise Higher in the 
Spiritual Life. 

330. Is this state perfection, then ? No ; for alongside of 
these acts of generous abnegation (which to our mind rise 
beyond the level of simple piety) those imperfect attach 
ments of which we have spoken above still endure. The 
purification of the senses, properly sustained, should 
indeed sever all these ties, and bring the soul to the unitive 
life. Those whom God wills to lead thither, and who are 
faithful to grace, truly attain thereto ; but many only par 
tially break away from their attachments, and these con 
tinue in a higher degree than ordinary piety, but without 
arriving at the state of the perfect. 

Let us hear St. John of the Cross : 

" How long the soul will continue in this fast and penance 
of sense cannot with certainty be told, because it is not the 
same in all, neither are all subjected to the same tempta 
tions. These trials are measured by the Divine will, and are 
proportioned to the imperfections, many or few, to be 
purged away, and also to the degree of union in love to 
which God intends to raise the soul ; that is the measure of 
its humiliations, both in their intensity and duration. 

" Those who are strong and more able to bear suffering 
are purified in more intense trials and in less time. But 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 301 

those who are weak are purified very slowly with weak temp 
tations, and the night of their purgation is long ; their 
senses are refreshed from time to time, lest they should fall 
away ; these, however, come late to the pureness of their perfec 
tion in this life, and some of them never. These persons are 
not clearly in the purgative night, nor clearly out of it ; for 
though they make no progress, yet, in order that they may 
be humble and know themselves, God tries them for a 
season in aridities and temptations, and visits them with 
His consolations at intervals, lest they should become faint 
hearted, and seek for comfort in the ways of the world. 

" From other souls, still weaker, God, as it were, hides 
Himself, that He may try them in His love ; for without 
this hiding of His face from them they would never learn 
how to approach Him. But those souls that are to enter so 
blessed and high a state as this of the union of love, however 
quickly God may lead them, tarry long, in general, amidst 
aridities, as we see by experience " (Obscure Night, Book I., 
chap. xiv.). 

331. It may also be that souls should be partially emanci 
pated from sensible fervours, and taste of contemplation 
from time to time, without having passed through any very 
dolorous crisis. The purification of the senses is then begun, 
but awaits completion. They are, and they may continue 
for years together, or even during their whole lives, in an 
intermediary state, where the two ways meet and the soul 
begins to issue forth from the illuminative life without 
having entered completely into the unitive life. According 
to the saintly writer, it is the weak and languid souls 
especially who remain in this half-way condition. They 
fail to rise to the life of constant and intimate union with 
God, because they do not carry the spirit of self-sacrifice 
and forgetfulness of self far enough. 

332. The souls lacking in generosity are those who readily 
listen to the objections which nature opposes to the in 
spirations of grace and the counsels of their director. In 
order to justify their resistance, they instance the large 



302 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

number of sacrifices which they have already made, the 
victories they have won, the acts of virtue accomplished. 
They continue to desire perfection, and yet they will not 
understand the length to which they must go in the path 
of self-sacrifice if they would attain to it. " Others," they 
say, " do not do as much ; less is demanded of them, or 
else they find things easier, they have more help. In my 
case, on the contrary, the difficulties are much greater ; 
they are really insurmountable." This obliquity of judg 
ment, which causes them to exaggerate their own difficulties 
and diminish other people s merits, indicates that the soul 
is too self-reliant and full of self-love, and this is the more 
serious because it does not recognize the fact, and neglects 
to combat it. With this disposition, these souls not only 
do not advance, but they even fall back, and fail to main 
tain themselves in the state of fervour. 

Another disposition of mind which sometimes checks the 
fervent souls is a tendency to form unfavourable estimates, 
and to take in bad part all their neighbours actions. 
Fraternal charity is thereby wounded and graces are 
diminished. These persons particularly criticize anything 
which does not exactly please them. If some one asks a 
service of them, they find him deficient in delicacy and un- 
mortified. Those who contradict them are lacking in judg 
ment in their eyes, as are those who thwart them in virtue. 
These perverse spirits may nevertheless have fine qualities 
and solid virtues ; under certain circumstances they may 
even give proof of a sincere devotion ; but they make their 
brethren suffer, and fall into dispositions of bitterness and 
impatience which spoil their acts of love and retard their 
progress. If they would carry their abnegation and for- 
getfulness of self further, they would not remain rooted in 
this degree, and would rise higher on the ladder of perfec 
tion. Feivent souls also frequently fail to become more 
perfect because they expend nearly all their activity upon 
external works at the expense of the inner life. They 
curtail the time allotted to devotional exercises more than 



THE PROGRESS OF THE FERVENT SOUL 303 

they should do, and allow themselves to be dominated by 
cares and material preoccupations, instead of applying 
themselves to nourish their faith and love. Or, again, 
they show a too natural attachment to their works and 
occupations. Then, their holy thoughts and ardent desires 
becoming rarer, they can no longer bring sufficient strength 
and constancy to bear in their struggle against self. If 
the virtues which they have acquired, and which they con 
tinue to practise, 1 prevent their falling back, nature, insuffi 
ciently suppressed, has too much influence not to be an 
obstacle to any fresh progress. 

And the same thing happens, and for the same reason, 
each time that, under some false pretext, they fail in the 
generous practice of the fundamental virtues, such as 
mortification and humility. 

To sum up : The fervent soul, while maintaining the good 
habits which it has contracted, ceases to advance when 
ever, allowing itself to be blinded by disingenuous reasons, 
it relaxes its efforts, and lacks the courage to go to any 
length in self-sacrifice. 

333. St. Teresa laments this same fact. " When God gives 
these precious pledges of His love (the prayer of quietude) 
to any soul, it is a sign that He destines it to great things, 
and if it be faithful it will make a wonderful progress in per 
fection. But if He perceive that, after having placed it in 
possession of His kingdom, it still turns its thoughts and 
affections earthwards, God will not reveal to it His secrets 
and the marvels of His kingdom. Such precious favours 
will be but seldom granted, and when He deigns so to 
gratify it, it will be but for a brief space. This, in my 
opinion, is the reason that amongst the souls arrived at this 
degree so few are to be found who go further on the spiritual 
road. Since they do not respond to so great a grace by 
their fidelity, and because, instead of preparing themselves 
to receive it anew, they rather cancel their gift, recalling 

1 It is superfluous to say that if they relax the practice of these 
virtues they will not only be standing still, they will be going back. 



304 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

their will out of God s hands, when He was already counting 
it as His own, to attach it to vile things ; so God goes else 
where in search of other souls who truly love Him, in order 
to enrich them with still greater treasures, but without 
always entirely removing from the first souls the things that 
He had given them, provided that they are living in purity 
of conscience " (Way of Perfection, chap, xxxiii.). 

In the fifteenth chapter of her Life the Saint says again : 
" Many are the souls who attain to this state, and few are 
they who go further ; and I know not who is in fault 
most certainly it is not God. ... It is a great sorrow to 
me, because, as I said before, I know that many souls 
come thus far, and that those who go further, as they 
ought to go, are so few that I am ashamed to say it." 



CHAPTER III 

THE PRAYER OF FERVENT SOULS 

334. FROM all that has gone before it follows that affective 
prayer 1 is the best adapted to fervent souls. A Christian 
soul, as we have said, never arrives at these sincere disposi 
tions to give himself wholly to God, and to renounce every 
thing for the love of Him, without having received great 
illumination. Simple meditation will not have achieved 
this ; the most striking considerations which it could have 
evolved, or which might have been suggested to it, do not 
operate on the spirit with sufficient power unless grace, 
touching the heart, simultaneously brings about a detach 
ment from creatures by making it taste the Divine sweet 
ness. It is affective prayer, then, and intense affective 
prayer, which, commonly speaking, leads it to fervour. 

1 The pious soul also has recourse to affective prayer, but when it 
attains to this degree of intensity described by Father Libermann it 
is a sure sign that the soul has attained to fervour. 



THE PRAYER OF FERVENT SOULS 305 

Besides, this degree once attained, and faith being thus 
illumined, the prayer of meditation will no longer teach it 
much. What could all the fine arguments in the world 
add to these already profound convictions ? 

It will speak to our Lord then ; it will consider Him in 
His mysteries ; it will show Him a great confidence and a 
great love, imploring His blessing, and asking Him more 
especially that it may love Him more. 

Amidst all this, if it maintains itself in a great purity of 
life, it will receive fresh graces from God, and from time to 
time will be admitted to the favour of contemplation. 

335. But these happy days will not be without interrup 
tions. Many fervent souls, in truth, are to be found whose 
prayer is difficult and laborious, who no longer taste those 
joys of a loving intercourse with Jesus, and who often strive 
unsuccessfully against a host of distractions and aridities. 
These drynesses may proceed from different causes : 
(i) These souls, while preserving in the depth of their hearts 
a great admiration for Christian abnegation, with a certain 
desire to practise it in all its fullness, are partially relaxed, 
and no longer retain their former ardour for mortification. 
Also, certain worldly cares, certain preoccupations denoting 
a heart insufficiently detached or deficient in faith, absorb their 
attention, and make it impossible for them to pray as they 
once prayed, and as they still desire to do. 1 (2) There are 
others who do not devote the necessary time and attention 
to this prayer. 2 These do not count sufficiently upon God ; 
they rely too much on themselves, and forget that less of 
human activity and more prayer would forward their work 
better, and make their labour more fruitful. Could they 
not, as a rule, without neglecting any essential duty, but 

1 In this case what we have said above (on affective prayer, 
Chapter II.) is applicable to them. 

2 It seems to us that it would be extremely difficult to arrive at 
contemplation if we were to make a fixed rule, as it were, not to 
devote more than half an hour daily to the holy occupation of this 
prayer. 

VOL. I. 20 



306 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

by scrupulously avoiding all waste of time, all less necessary 
occupations, devote a longer time to this holy exercise P 1 
(3) A third cause, to which we shall have occasion to revert 
presently, is that many souls have not fully entered into 
the contemplative way, as they were invited to do, and 
they are vainly demanding the aids to fervour and the 
methods which are no longer adapted to them. (4) Finally, 
if none of these reasons apply, if these souls have lost 
nothing of their first fervour, if they devote sufficient time 
to prayer, and if they still find great difficulty therein, and 
if this difficulty continues in spite of all their efforts, we 
must presume that they are in the night of the senses. 

336. St. John of the Cross tells us what it is that is 
taking place within them. Ripe for a higher way, that of 
contemplation, they do not at first, except very occasion 
ally, receive those contemplative graces in the intense degree 
which takes strong hold upon the soul, and which, as we 
shall presently see, constitutes sensible quietude. This 
comes to them from time to time in their prayers, but it 
cannot yet be their habitual condition. 2 During the 
intervals the contemplative grace is much weaker so weak 
that the soul, to which this kind of operation is new, is 
hardly conscious of it, and strives to unite itself with God 
by means of considerations and the pictures of the imagina 
tion. 

This obscure contemplation, as St. John of the Cross calls 

1 Let those who, consumed by zeal, fancy that by their preachings 
and other exterior works they are going to change the whole world, 
reflect a moment, and they will realize how much more pleasing 
they would be to our Lord, not to mention the good example that 
they would give, if they would spend half their time communing 
with God in prayer, even if they were not so advanced as the soul 
to which we are referring here " (St. John of the Cross, Spir. Cant., 
str. xxviii.). 

2 " At first," says St. Teresa (Sixth Mansion, chap, vii.), " one or 
even several years may pass before the Master will accord them any 
new favours." (She refers to quietude, in which the will is inflamed 
with love, and the soul feels the Divine presence.) See also St. 
Francis of Sales, whom we shall presently quote, No. 347. 



THE PRAYER OF FERVENT SOULS 307 

it, is quite powerful enough to impel the soul towards God, 
and consequently to make it aspire to fervent prayer and 
an intense affective union. But it cannot produce the vivid 
sweetness of sensible quietude, and it is precisely because, 
being thus inclined towards God, it fails to attain to the 
sensible enjoyment of His presence, that the soul seeks after 
all kinds of considerations and representations. If it 
persists obstinately in this course, it will wear itself out in 
useless efforts, and it will never find the satisfactions and 
spiritual delights that it desires. 

337. Under these circumstances, what should it then do ? 
While finding itself powerless to meditate, or to find God 
by way of the imagination, if it will take heed it is aware 
of a tranquil and secret happiness which it tastes in merely 
abiding in a state of spiritual repose, standing attentively, 
as it were, in the presence and loving contemplation of God, 
without requiring the least assistance from the imagination, 
and without having recourse to its activity. When this 
disposition can be identified there can be no more doubt ; 
we have the most certain mark of the call to the contem 
plative way, and the soul should then abide in peace, and 
no longer be troubled about anything but giving itself up 
to God, yielding itself to His guidance, listening in the 
inner chambers of its heart with a loving attention to the 
Divine instructions. 1 

It is very advisable to teach the soul to learn to delight 
in the repose of love as soon as it manifests itself, 2 and we 
must persuade it that its prayer has been excellent when 
it has maintained itself in God s presence without even 
having entertained any distinct thoughts or really ardent 
affections. 3 

1 Obscure Night, i. 9 ; Ascent of Mount Carmel, ii. 12 ; Living 
Flame, st. iii., 7, 8, etc. 

2 Utile erit assuefieri paulatim ad persistendum in hoc amove con- 
templativo cum aliqua quiete et tranquillitate animi, quantum unicuique 
donatum fuerit desupe- (Suarez, De Oratione Mentale, xi. 10). 

3 For souls to whom this advice is applicable, Father Ludovic de 
Besse, La Science de la Priere, may be usefully recommended. 

20 2 



308 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Some writers go as far as to advocate that even before 
the signs of the call to contemplation have made themselves 
apparent, and in order to prepare the soul thereto, we 
should teach it to make silent pauses in the course of its 
prayers. "It is important," says Fr. Rigoleue, to keep 
silence at intervals during our prayer." Bossuet, quoted 
by Father de Caussade, who insists upon this point at great 
length, advises the interruption of the considerations at 
intervals by pauses, in order to give place to the prayer of 
the presence of God ; and Father Balthazar Alvarez, with 
out being as definite on this point, seems to hold the same 
opinion. 

This method seems to have St. Teresa s authority (Fourth 
Mansion, chap. iii. et passim). She does not approve of 
engaging in contemplation without a definite call from 
God. Amongst other dangers, she dreads presumption 
and a real loss of time. But it must be admitted that in 
her day and the surroundings in which she lived, contempla 
tion and quietude were as common as they are now rare, 
and it was quite an ordinary thing, as appears from several 
passages of her works, to find souls who aspired to give 
themselves up to contemplation without having received 
any call from God. This is the abuse which the Saint is 
combating. 

But these undesirable results noted by St. Teresa can be 
avoided, so it seems to us, by means of those pauses. The 
soul is tested by their means ; if it is found to be ripe for 
contemplation it will be gradually accustomed not to rest 
too much on its own activity, and to listen to God in silence. 
But let these pauses be short at the outset, and introduced 
without violence or effort. Finally, it is necessary that the 
director should avoid flattering his penitent s self-love, and 
lead the soul into the new paths without letting it think 
that it is ripe for a higher degree of prayer. " What need," 
he might say, " has God of your fine speeches and thoughts ? 
Remain before Him at times (to use the original simile of a 
saintly personage) like a little dog before its master, content 



THE PRAYER OF FERVENT SOULS 309 

to gaze at Him and to be near Him ; or as the victim before 
its executioners, waiting until the flame takes hold of it 
and consumes it. Be a little child in God s presence. 
Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli. The little child does not 
trouble himself as to what he is to say to his mother, does 
not occupy himself as to the words that he is to use, the 
thoughts he is to express. He gazes at her, smiles at her, 
caresses her, or he simply rests his head upon her maternal 
breast, and in this abandonment there are marks of trust 
fulness and love which rejoice the mother s heart. So, if 
you love God, you will sometimes be conscious of His sweet 
presence. Yield yourself to it, then ; rest in His arms with 
no other desire than that of abiding there, no other care 
than that of loving Him." 

The director may also quote the example of the publican. 
If he spoke one word only Deus propitius esto mihi pecca- 
tori it was doubtless that he stood annihilated, as it were, 
at the spectacle of his sinfulness and the holiness of the 
God Whom he had offended. And this simple prayer earned 
our Lord s commendation. By his prudence and discre 
tion the director will avoid exposing these souls to pre 
sumption, and he will soon know whether they are called 
to the prayer of silence and contemplation. 

339. When we find the soul actually experiencing the 
prayer of quietude at times, there will be no further room 
for doubt, and it will then be well to advise these pauses, 
to point out the utility (in the words of St. Jane Frances de 
Chantal) " of moderating the too great activity of the senses 
and listening to God." " Ah, how good it is," says the 
Saint, " to hear God speaking within us rather than to 
speak to Him ourselves ! One word from His mouth is 
worth more than ten thousand of the things that we could 
say to Him." 

We need to be greatly encouraged before we can accept 
this silent repose, so natural is it to us to produce definite 
acts. " From our way of behaving when at prayer," says 
Father de Caussade, " it would often seem as though we 



3 io THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

were convinced that all would be lost did we trust more to 
God than to ourselves. This is what our Saviour gave 
St. Catharine of Siena to understand. She relates it thus : 
" Having one day said to Him, But, Lord, how is it that at 
the time of the prophets and Apostles Thou didst such great 
things, communicating Thyself so abundantly to mankind, 
and now we see nothing similar to it ? My child/ said 
Jesus Christ, it is because formerly men showed a great 
simplicity, a great mistrust of self, and a complete reliance 
in Me. But now they are so filled with self, so occupied 
with their own achievements, all that they are saying to 
Me and incessantly repeating, as though I forgot it, that 
they rarely leave Me time to work in them after My own 
desires, because they want to say everything and do every 
thing in their own way (Spiritual Instructions on the 
Divers States of Prayer, part ii., dialogue 6). 

340. It would be to go too fast, however, were we to wish 
to withdraw from affective prayer those who have but just 
entered upon contemplation. Only in those moments when 
the repose of love makes itself perceived let there be silence , 
nothing is better. But over and above all this we should 
follow the rules of affective prayer, and observe its divisions 
the preparation, presence of God, consideration of some 
mystery or religious truth, the ardent colloquy with Jesus, 
and the resolution. 

This is what St. John of the Cross expressly teaches 
(Mount Carmel, No. 15). It is what the Ven. Father Liber- 
mann wrote to a seminarist : " In moments of dryness do 
not be satisfied with simple repose, and this is my reason. 
You have not yet attained to a sufficiently high degree of 
renunciation. If God had accustomed you for a long time 
to this prayer, and you had formed the habit of it, I should 
tell you to go on in faith ; but in this case you ought to 
wait " (Letter, vol. iii., p. 353). The kind of affective prayer 
which would be the most efficacious here, should any other 
attraction not come in the way, is this prayer of recollec 
tion, the description of which we have borrowed from St. 



THE PRAYER OF FERVENT SOULS 311 

Teresa (supra, No. 272). It will dispose the soul better than 
any other to receive the contemplative operations, and will 
contribute to its progress. 

341. Let us conclude with the words of St. Francis of 
Sales, which confirm and sum up what we have said : 
" You desire to know whether a soul which is still very im 
perfect could remain profitably before God in that simple 
attention to His holy presence in prayer. And I reply that 
if God gives you the power, you can well so abide, for it 
often happens that our Lord vouchsafes these quietudes 
and tranquillities to souls which are not yet completely 
purged. But while they still stand in need of purification, 
they ought, besides this prayer, to make such observations 
and considerations as are necessary to their amendment 
for even when God maintains them in a state of entire re 
collection, they have sufficient freedom to be enabled to 
discourse with the understanding on various matters. 
Why, then, should they not make considerations and resolu 
tions for their own improvement and the practice of the 
Christian virtues ?" (2nd Entretien, De la Confiance). 



CHAPTER IV 

THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 

i. The Practice of Recollection, Humility, and the Other 

Virtues. 

342. THE fact that these souls must maintain themselves 
in recollection and prayer is obvious, " since they are like 
to the little child which is still nourished by its mother s 
milk " (St. Teresa, Fourth Mansion, chap. in.). They should 
not neglect the precautions which their weakness necessi 
tates. Otherwise dissipation of mind would soon lead to 



3 i2 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

immortification and ease ; they would lose their fervour 
instead of advancing towards perfection. 

We can say the same with regard to humility, the practice 
of which becomes more and more necessary for them, and 
those other virtues also of which we have spoken in the 
preceding book. What we say of pious souls is applicable 
also to the fervent, and the method that we would suggest 
for training them in the exercise of these virtues is usually 
also adopted for the souls of which we are speaking. 1 

343. Some souls, in spite of their sincere desire for pro 
gress, are lacking in courage or perseverance ; they need to 
be stimulated and upheld. Others have an ardent imagina 
tion rather than a solid will. They are enthusiastic, over 
excited ; they will voluntarily demand a life of suffering ; 
they will dream of heroic sacrifices, while they still need to 
make a real progress in everyday virtues. Seeing them 
selves as victims accepted by God for the salvation of souls, 
they do nothing but make lamentation ; they take the least 
trials (or even troubles and persecutions, which only exist 
in their own imagination, or which they have magnified out 
of all recognition) for formidable ordeals ; they do not realize 
all the annoyance that they cause to their neighbour by 
their complaints, their melancholy airs, and their gloomy 
and sometimes sullen demeanour. They believe themselves 
to be in a high state of advancement because they have a 
theoretical acquaintance with the highest doctrines, and 
have felt themselves glow with admiration and enthusiasm 
for everything sublime and heroic. But as they have been 
content to fill their minds with beautiful ideas and their 
hearts with sterile desires, without devoting themselves 
solidly to the practice of virtue, the light upon which they 
so pride themselves will be to them rather a cause for 
punishment than for reward. 

1 The Manuel des dmes interieures (Father Grou) cannot be too 
highly recommended for fervent souls. This little volume will teach 
them, better, perhaps, than any other, how to respond to God s 
designs upon them (Paris: Lecoffre, i fr.). 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 313 

However little the fervent soul may fall into this error, 
the danger should be pointed out to it, and it should be 
made to see how a defective humility has already arrested 
its progress, and will soon destroy it completely, unless it 
regains its dispositions of fervour. 

344. The desire for suffering is certainly very praise 
worthy, provided that a real humility goes with it. Truly 
pious souls, understanding the value of the Cross, sincerely 
desire not to pass a day without suffering something for 
God. They thank Him for each trial that befalls them ; 
they consecrate themselves to a life of sacrifices, always 
supplementing those sent them by Providence by others 
which are voluntary. They accept in advance, and offer 
up for the Church and for souls, all that it shall please God 
to send them. But they never lose sight of their own sin- 
fulness. While resigning themselves to bear all future 
trials, they know that God measures His chastisements 
according to the strength of His children, and they only 
desire such sufferings as are proportionate to their weak 
ness, and do not ask Him to treat them as though they 
were strong and heroic souls. Neither do they magnify 
their troubles, or spend their time seeking support and con 
solation from creatures. Their thoughts are more occupied 
with the sufferings of Jesus than with their own, and they 
say to themselves that all that they bear for Him is as 
nothing compared to His sufferings for their sakes. 

2. Need for Perfect Renunciation. 

345. Pauci inveniuntur contemplativi (says the author of 
the Imitation), quia pauci sciunt se a perituris creaturis 
ad plenum sequestrare. We find few contemplative souls, 
because few know how to separate themselves entirely from 
creatures and from perishable things (Book III., chap. xxxi.). 
" The great obstacle to contemplation," we read in the 
same chapter, " is that we stop at what is sensible and 
external, and do not mortify ourselves truly : Magnum 



3 i4 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

impedimentum quia . . . parum de perfecta mortificatione 
habetur. And this perfect detachment is one of the prin 
ciples upon which the writer of this admirable book most 
constantly insists ; and not this holy writer only, but all the 
ascetic masters declare that there is but one way of leading 
a soul to contemplation, and this is to make it practise true 
mortification. 

346. Let us hear St. John of the Cross on this point. 
He explains in an admirable way how necessary is this 
universal renunciation of all things, and in what it consists. 

The state of Divine union consists in the total trans 
formation of the will into the will of God, in such a way that 
every movement of the will shall be always the movement 
of the will of God only. This is the reason why, in this 
state, two wills are said to be one my will and God s will 
so that the will of God is also that of the soul. But if the 
soul then cleaves to any imperfection contrary to the will 
of God, His will is not done, for the soul wills that which 
God wills not. It is clear, therefore, that if the soul is to 
be united in love and will with God, every desire of the will 
must first of all be cast aside, however slight it may be that is, 
we must not deliberately and knowingly assent with the will 
to any imperfection, and we must have such power over it 
and such liberty as to reject every such desire the moment 
we are aware of it. I say knowingly, for without delibera 
tion and a clear perception of what we are doing, or because 
it is not wholly in our power, we may easily give way to 
imperfections and venial sins, and to those natural desires 
of which I have just spoken. It is of such sins as these, 
not so entirely voluntary, that it is written, A just man 
shall fall seven times, and shall rise again/ 

" But as to those voluntary and perfectly deliberate desires, 
how slight soever their objects may be, any one of them not 
overcome is sufficient to prevent this union. I am speaking 
of the unmortified habit thereof, because certain acts occa 
sionally have not so much power, for the habit of them is 
not settled ; still, we must get rid of them, for they, too, 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 315 

proceed from habitual imperfection. Some habits of volun 
tary imperfections, so far as they are never perfectly over 
come, hinder not only the Divine union, but our progress 
towards perfection. 

" These habitual imperfections are, for instance, much 
talking, certain attachments, which we never resolve to 
break through, such as to individuals, to a book or a cell, 
to a particular food, to certain society, the satisfaction of 
one s taste, science, news, and such things. 1 Every one of 
these imperfections, if the soul is attached and habituated 
to them, results in serious injuries to our growth and pro 
gress in goodness. Yea, even if we fall daily into many 
other imperfections greater than these, provided they are 
not the result of the habitual indulgence of any evil in 
clination, we should not be so much hindered in our course 
as we are by this selfish attachment of the soul to particular 
objects ; for while the soul entertains it it is useless to hope 
that we can ever attain to perfection, even though the 
object of our attachment be but of the slightest importance 
possible. 

" Does it make any difference whether a bird be held 
by a slender thread or by a rope, while the bird is bound and 
cannot fly till the cord that holds it is broken ? It is true 
that a slender thread is more easily broken ; still, notwith 
standing, if it is not broken, the bird cannot fly. This is 
the state of a soul with particular attachments ; it never 
can attain to the liberty of the Divine union, whatever 
virtues it may possess " (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book I., 
chap. xi.). 

347. Of course, this universal abnegation is not neces 
sary to enable God to grant the favour of some contempla 
tive prayer from time to time. St. Francis of Sales, as we 
saw in the last chapter, says this expressly. In another 
passage which we have also quoted (Love of God, Book X., 
chap, iv.), speaking of these souls who " truly love over- 

1 St. Francis of Sales says that the simple attachment to an idle 
thought hinders the soul from reaching perfection. 



316 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

ardently and with superfluity, but do not love superfluities, 
but only such things as they should love," he adds : " And 
therefore are they admitted to the nuptial couch of the 
Heavenly Solomon (that is to say, those unions, states of 
recollection and repose of love, of which he has spoken in 
Books V. and VI.) ; but not in the capacity of true brides, 
because the superfluity with which they have loved lawful 
things has hindered them from entering very often into these 
Divine unions with the Bridegroom, being occupied and 
distracted by loving, apart from Him and without Him, 
that which they should have loved only in Him and for 
Him." 

When the soul has renounced itself completely it will be 
in the real unitive life, and contemplation will have become 
much more habitual. Raised to the rank of a spouse of the 
Divine Master, it will receive the marks of His love much 
more frequently. Perfect self-renunciation, then, is the 
goal at which we must aim, and there are two things which 
will lead us thither : (i) The soul s own labour ; (2) the 
Divine purification, which consists in the aridities and 
trials sent to it by Providence. 

3. The Soul s Labour after Renunciation. 

348. This is what St. John of the Cross calls the active 
night of the soul s faculties. 

This labour consists in " incessantly examining into the 
four chief passions of the human heart, taking note of their 
tendency and object, and making it our continual study 
to transform them into God " (Surin, Love of God, Book I., 
chap. vii.). And these four chief passions, which, according 
to St. John of the Cross (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Book I., 
chap, xiii.), we are to mortify ceaselessly, are joy, hope, 
fear, and grief. Now, these four passions of the soul, these 
motions of the human heart, are caused either by the present 
good which we possess, which is joy ; or by the absent good 
to which we aspire, which is desire or hope ; or by the present 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 317 

evil, which engenders grief ; or by the absent evil which we 
dread, and this is fear. Now, we must establish ourselves 
in the disposition to renounce all good things but those 
which are supernatural, and to accept all evils which do not 
harm the soul. 

We must study, then, (i) not to seek for joy, or any 
voluntary deliberate happiness, apart from God. (2) Not 
to attach ourselves to any hope, any desire, for a purely 
sensible or natural good. " Immediately that a soul, given 
up to God s good pleasure, perceives in itself any desire," 
says St. Francis of Sales, " it incontinently causes it to die 
within the will of God " (Entretien de la Confiance). (3) To 
drive far away all fear which is not inspired by some 
considerations of faith. (4) And, finally, never to allow 
oneself to fall into sorrow and grief for any reasons other 
than those where God s glory or supernatural interests 
are concerned. 

So that when a soul appears to be advanced in the 
illuminative life, full of love for Jesus suffering, or of zeal 
for God s glory, and already devoted to the practice of 
mortification, we should suggest this perfect renunciation ; 
it will be the surest means to its rapid progress. 1 

4. Passive Renunciation The Divine Purgation. 

349. However much the soul may labour to attain to 
this perfect abnegation, it cannot succeed by its sole efforts. 
" However much the beginner strives," St. John of the 
Cross says, " to mortify his inclinations, he cannot wholly 
or even partly markedly succeed if God does not also 
participate, by way of the purification of the obscure 
night (Obscure Night, i. 7). 

1 In order to bring this doctrine within the reach of fervent 
souls we have collected all the passages from the holy writers 
demonstrating this necessity of perfect renunciation, and have 
explained how. according to St. John of the Cross, it should be 
practised. (Le secret de I amour divin, ou le par fait renoncement.) 



3i8 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

In order to lead the soul to purify itself more completely, 
and to strip itself of all its natural affections, God will 
permit it to pass through troubles, temptations, aridities, 
and trials of every kind. Its method of conduct can be 
summed up in two words, a loving submission to the will 
of God, and an absolute fidelity in His service. 

350. First, it is most important that souls should not 
regard this purifying state as evil. They often torment and 
distress themselves, and think that it is a punishment 
from God, especially when they are a prey to temptations 
and dryness. In this case they fall into sadness and fear, 
and thence to discouragement is but a step. 

" St. Peter, says Holy Scripture, seeing the storm, which 
was very great, was afraid, and as soon as he was afraid 
he began to sink and to drown. Then he cried, Lord, 
save me/ and our Lord took him by the hand and said : 
O man of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt ? 
See the holy Apostle walking dryshod upon the waters ; 
the waves and the wind could not cause him to sink, but 
the fear of them will prove fatal to him unless his Master 
saves him. Fear is a greater evil that the evil itself" 
(St. Francis of Sales to St. Jane Frances, August 6, 1606). 

351. We must advise these souls, then, not to be afraid, 
but to trust themselves wholly in God s hands, without 
asking by what way He is leading them and why He is 
trying them. 

" Remember two things (i) that the children of Israel 
were for forty years in the desert before coming to the 
promised land, and yet six weeks would have sufficed to 
make the journey easily. But it was not lawful for them 
to inquire why God made them wander round about and 
brought them by such difficult ways ; and all those who 
murmured died before their arrival. The other (2) is that 
Moses, the greatest friend of God amongst them all, died 
on the threshold of the promised land, seeing it with his 
eyes, but not being able to possess it. 

It pleases God that we should pay small heed to the 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 319 

way by which we have to travel, and that our eyes should 
be fixed on Him who leads us and on the blessed country 
to which He is bringing us. What should it matter to us 
whether our way is by the deserts or by the fields, so long 
as God is with us, and that we are on our way to Paradise ?" 
(St. Francis of Sales to St. Jane Frances, February 18, 
1605). 

" How unjust we are, and without common sense, my 
dear sir," wrote Father Libermann. " A blind man trusts 
himself to a little dog, which leads him where it will, and 
the man follows without knowing where he is going ; and 
we, wretched creatures that we are, blinder than those 
that are born blind, we have so great a Guide, so far-seeing 
and so full of tenderness for us, and we will not trust Him 
with our souls " (Letter of June 30, 1838). 

352. As self-love usually plays a large part in these 
anxieties (see supra, No. 241), and as, besides, God desires 
the extirpation of this fault, the director will advise the 
soul in its trials to forget itself and to think more of Jesus. 
" O God " (it should say constantly in its prayers), " find 
hearts that can love Thee ; it will console me in my inca 
pacity if others pay Thee that love which is Thy due. 
Yes, O my God ,what I desire above all is that Thy Name 
should be glorified, that Thou shouldst reign over all 
hearts, and that Thy will should be accomplished in all 
things and always." 

353. In order to encourage these souls it is well to remind 
them that God s designs in these ordeals are good and 
merciful, and to get them to regard them, not as a chastise 
ment, but rather as a favour, failing which state of desola 
tion, privation, and denudation, they would never attain 
to true sanctity. It was thus that St. Francis of Sales 
dealt with St. Jane Frances when she first came under his 
direction (June 24, 1604), warning her of the trials that 
she was about to undergo. " You will have contradictions 
and sorrows. The throes and pains of the spiritual child 
birth are no less than those of the physical. You have 



320 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

made trial of the one and of the other. Many a time have 
I been helped in my little difficulties by the words which 
our dear Saviour spoke : A woman, when she is in labour, 
has sorrow because her hour is come, but when she has 
brought forth the child she remembers no more the anguish, 
for joy that a man is born into the world (John xvi. 21). 
I think they will console you also if you reflect on them 
and often repeat them. Our souls should desire to bring 
forth, not out of themselves, but in themselves, a male 
child the most sweet, gracious, and beautiful that 
could be desired. It is Jesus Whom we must endeavour 
thus to bring forth and produce within ourselves. . . . We 
must suffer anguish in order to bring Him forth, and to 
be the mother of such a child is worth much suffering." 
The holy bishop s prophecy was fulfilled. After the first 
sensible fervour came various distresses of mind, difficulties, 
and temptations 1 , which strengthened his penitent and 
brought her into a more settled state of piety, into a fervour 
which was wholly spiritual. And the Saint described himself 
as being quite easy about her. " No, before God, my dear 
daughter, I will be in no wise troubled. I fear nothing 
as to your incapacities or the pains that you suffer in your 
mind. The pains of childbirth have passed ; what can I 
fear for you at this time of the day ?" (Letter of June 29, 
1606). 

Oh, how great a service should we render to these persons 
if we could inspire them with an invincible trust ! It is 
this that God requires of them. The graces which He has 
showered upon them with such liberality give Him the 
right to exact this absolute reliance. He pleases to put 
their faith to the test, reserving for them, if they are faithful, 
yet greater blessings in the future than any that they have 
as yet received. Let them continue unshakable in the 
severest trials, let them say to God, like holy Job/ Although 
Thou shouldest slay me, yet will I trust in Thee " Etiam si 
occideret me, in ipso sperabo (Job. xiii. 15). When their 

1 See the Letters of August 30, 1605, March 7 and 16, 1606. 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 321 

hearts are expanded with this boundless faith they will not 
walk, they will fly, on the path of perfection. Viam man- 
datorum tuorum cucurri, cum dilatasti cor meum (Ps. cxviii.). 

354. With regard to trials which come to us from without, 
our action must be the same as in the case of such as are 
interior resign ourselves, that is to say, and submit 
ourselves to God s will. Be in the Master s hands like 
the anvil before the blacksmith, or, rather, like the hot iron 
that he holds in his pincers. He strikes many a mighty 
blow upon it, and the iron takes all the shapes that he 
desires. You are still like unto a piece of iron, unwrought, 
rugged, hard, unpliable, and our Lord must make you 
contrite and supple by contradictions and crosses (Liber- 
mann, Letters of August 21, 1842). 

This comparison puts us in mind of that which B. Suzo 
employs. " We read in the Lives of the Fathers of the 
Desert that a disciple inquired of his master what he 
should do in order to become perfect ; and the master 
replied : Go into the cemetery and offer compliments 
and praises to the dead and to their ashes, and then after 
wards curse and insult them ; and you will see whether 
the dead answer you, and if their ashes are troubled. The 
disciple obeyed, and returned to tell his master that the 
dead had answered never a word, and that their ashes 
had been disturbed no more by his praises than by his 
insults. The master replied : This is perfection : go thou 
and do likewise " (Spiritual Writings). 

Fervent souls understand this language, and the ardour 
of their love makes this complete abnegation easier to 
them. We should even lead them further still, suggesting 
to them that they should rejoice and bless God in the 
midst of their sufferings. Never fail, we should say, 
when you suffer some humiliation, or when some trial 
overtakes you, to exclaim instantly from the bottom of 
your heart, " My God, I thank Thee." If the trial is a 
severe one, recite a Laudate or Magnificat fervently, or 
even, in special circumstances a Te Deum ; for, as the 
VOL. i. 21 



322 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Cross is a blessing, should we not measure our gratitude 
in proportion to the greatness of the benefit received ? 
You do not know what the angels envy us for certainly 
for no other thing than this, that we can suffer for our Lord, 
while they have never suffered anything for Him (St. 
Francis of Sales to the Abbess of Puits d Orbe, September, 
1604). This is the language of love. Whoso loves God 
truly is glad to suffer for Him. 

355. The sufferings which God sends to His children are 
always proportioned to their strength. Unhappily, many 
persons aggravate the burden : they think of it constantly, 
they keep continually in mind the injuries done to them, 
the injustices of which they are the victims, the privations 
which they have to impose on themselves, the rebuffs that 
they have received, the hindrances to their activity, thus 
increasing their troubles and making themselves unable to 
bear them. It is quite the contrary with prudent souls. 
If they rejoice to suffer for God, they do not stay to dwell 
on the cause of their afflictions. 

" It seems to me," wrote the Venerable Mary of the 
Incarnation, " that it is absolutely necessary to cut short 
all reflections upon things which might cause us pain, all 
the more because, unless we take heed, when once the 
imagination is affected, the mind also becomes troubled, 
and then there is an end to peace and tranquillity. To 
tell you the truth, during the thirty years since God gave 
me the grace of an attraction to a more interior life, I have 
found no other means so favourable to real progress as 
this general curtailment of all dwelling upon the difficulties 
that we encounter, especially such as do not tend to God 
or to the practice of the virtues " (Letter to her Son, 
October 22, 1649). 

356. But with these loving hearts, their most severe 
trials come usually from their temptations. The fear of 
displeasing God causes them real agony and sorrow. They 
must be consoled, therefore, and, as we have said, taught to 
despise the enemy s attacks. 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 323 

"St. Francis of Sales," wrote Mme. de la Maisonfort 
to Bossuet, " says that it is not in arguing with temptations 
that we escape them best." And Bossuet replied : " This 
expression of not arguing with temptation is as correct 
as it is fine. As a rule, we need simply take it as van 
quished, without even wrestling with it, turning at once 
to God, as if our minds were made up and there was nothing 
to hesitate about." 

" Even when it is a question of the most impious, dis 
gusting, and horrible temptations against God," says the 
Blessed Albert the Great, " do not even heed them. Pay 
no attention and despise them. Do not burden your 
conscience with the recollection of them. The enemy 
will not fail to take to flight if you thus despise both him 
and his vain phantoms, for his pride is gigantic, and he 
cannot bear to be despised and disdained. And it is very 
certain that the sovereign remedy against these temptations 
is that of not paying the least attention to them, no more 
than to the flies which come against our will and flit before 
our eyes " (De VIntime Union avec Dieu, chap. xi. ; trans. 
P. Rousset). 

The hour of prayer is often chosen by the enemy for his 
assaults, but, even so, we should deal with him only by 
contempt. 

This also is St. Peter of Alcantara s advice : " As for the 
importunate thoughts which usually pursue us in our prayer, 
there is nothing for it but to combat them with great 
courage and constancy, provided that we do it without 
great stress and intensity of thought ; for this is not a 
contest of strength, but the work of grace and humility. This 
is why we should turn to God without scruples or uneasiness 
the moment that we find ourselves in this state, provided 
always that it is not our own fault, or only very slightly so, 
and say with all humility and devotion : Lord, Thou 
knowest what I am, what canst Thou gather upon ground 
which Thou hast cursed with briars and thorns ? Such are 
the fruits which it must bring forth unless Thou removest 

212 



324 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

Thy ban. Then take up the thread of the subject and 
patiently await the coming of the Lord, Who never rejects 
the humble. If disquieting thoughts return, and you 
resist them patiently with all your might, be sure that you 
will make more progress by this resistance than you would 
do in enjoying all God s sweetness " (St. Peter of Alcantara, 
Treatise on Mental Prayer, part ii., chap. iv. 2). 

357- We have followed the Christian soul step by step 
from its introduction into the spiritual life up to the 
threshold of the unitive life. The progress is not uniform 
in all cases. God, Who is lavish with His gifts, distributes 
them in varying measures. Obstacles which He thinks it 
inexpedient to remove impede the course of His merciful 
designs at times, while on the soul s side the co-operation 
may be more or less generous. 

Fidelity to grace, this should be the chief subject of our 
examinations and reflections. The part assigned to the 
creature in the work of its own sanctification is so great 
that it need only blame itself if it should remain in a state 
of mediocrity. Who can set bounds to the generosity of 
God were we always to respond to His advances ? Should 
I have received less grace than that saintly soul whose 
virtues astound and delight me, if I had not abused the aids 
which God had offered me ? 

" Everything," says St. Paul, " profits those that love 
God" (Diligentibus Deum omnia co-operantur in bonum). 
And St. Augustine does not fear to add, etiam peccata. 
Yes, even the faults into which they fall are an occasion 
for the multiplication of their acts of humility, of contrition, 
and of love. The assaults of the demons make their 
prayers more ardent, their faith more meritorious, their 
efforts more sanctifying. Troubles and trials effect their 
detachment from the creature, and unite them the more 
closely to God, while the lights which He vouchsafes to 
them increase their charity. 

The soul fails too often with regard to grace, but grace 



THE DIRECTION OF FERVENT SOULS 325 

never fails the soul. We shall perceive this clearly on the 
day when all God s goodness with regard to us, and all 
our own infidelities, will be disclosed to us. We shall 
realize how the words of the Holy Spirit have been verified 
to the letter in our own case. Hcec est voluntas Dei 
sanctificatio vestra (This is the will of God, even your 
sanctification) . 



APPENDIX 

EXCELSIUS 

358. You, dear reader, who have followed me faithfully 
up to now, will you part company with me here ? There 
are some, we are told, who are content to study the inferior 
degrees of the spiritual life, and who, while casting ad 
miring glances upon the souls that are scaling the heights 
of virtue, decline to follow them. The teaching that we 
are about to deliver seems too high to them, the virtues 
that we are about to describe above their capacity ; they 
do not think themselves called to live upon the heights, 
they do not aspire to perfection. 

Oh, did you but understand how God desires this for 
you, this perfection which so terrifies you, you would be 
less pusillanimous, your courage would mount up, and you 
would set about learning the way to attain to it with a holy 
ardour. 

God hungers for your love. Love is His food, love is 
His life. He has created intelligent beings only in order 
that He might reap in them a rich harvest of love. This 
infinite God deigns, as it were, to stoop to gather in our 
love. My child, give Me thy heart," He says to us Prcebe, 
fili, cor tuum mihi (Prov. xxiii. 26). The better to win us, 
He Himself speaks to us of His unchangeable love. " Can 
a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the 
son of her womb ? and if she should forget, yet will not I 
forget thee " (Isa. xlix. 15). He strictly commands us 
to love Him with all our hearts, with all our souls, with 

326 



APPENDIX 327 

all our minds, and with all our strength. And what proof 
of His love has He not given to us ? " God so loved the 
world as to give His only begotten Son " (John iii. 16). 
And has not the Divine Son Himself carried love to its 
very furthest limits ? In finem dilexit eos. 

Now, perfection is love in its normal development, it is 
love truly worthy of the name. Does it seem too high 
a thing to you ? Jesus does not so consider it, for He has 
said, Perfecte estate (Be ye perfect). He does not find 
it too high for the souls whom He nourishes with His flesh 
and with His blood. What can He think when He sees 
you approach the holy table, content with your mediocrity, 
resigned never to love Him here below with a perfect 
affection ? And if the gift of the Holy Eucharist does not 
excite your generosity, if it is not sufficient to cause you 
to aspire to the higher degrees of virtue, turn your eyes 
to Calvary, and you will understand that it was not to 
enable you to remain in your imperfections that Jesus 
suffered as He did. 

359. Pusillanimous reader, let me speak to you of the 
sufferings of Jesus, and then tell me whether you still 
persist in being content with merely ordinary virtue, 
whether you do not blush to requite our sweetest Saviour s 
love with such a poor reward. 

When you cannot get free of any suffering, you strive 
at least to diminish it. Jesus, Who could have prayed 
to His Heavenly Father, and obtained from Him whole 
legions of angels ; Jesus, Who by one single word overthrew 
His enemies in the Garden of Olives, not only did He not 
refuse suffering, but He even, as it were, set Himself to 
undergo it in all its aggravations. He opened wide the 
gates of His Heart in order that this suffering might enter 
in, in its full plenitude, and that the work of His expiation 
might be freely accomplished. His human soul had been 
created with a higher intelligence than that of all other 
souls and all angelic spirits. He brought all the powers 
of His intellectual vision to bear upon the consideration 



328 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

of the sins of men, in the present, past, and future, fathom 
ing all their malice ! 

You Christians, who so frequently banish the humiliating 
remembrance of your faults, think how Jesus did not turn 
His eyes away from them at Gethsemane. 

His Heart possessed a greater power of affection than that 
of any human creature. Jesus called all His love into 
action, or, rather, He gave Himself up to all the ardours 
of His tenderness, both for His Heavenly Father and for 
mankind, His brethren ; then, as He contemplated all those 
offences committed against His Father, together with the 
myriad ills which souls have suffered because of sin, He 
caused a limitless sorrow to be born within His Heart. 
The suffering that He endured, seeing His Father 
unknown, outraged by so many creatures who owe every 
thing to Him, will never be comprehended by any mortal 
soul. As to the ills caused by sin, the temporal pains, 
the loss of grace (sufferings alas ! in many cases 
eternal), and as each one of the members of the human 
family was intensely dear to Him, the Heart of Jesus 
endured as many tortures as He had already encountered, 
or that He would henceforth encounter, from all the sinners 
upon the earth in the course of the ages to come. To turn 
to this comparison which Jesus Himself made to the 
Blessed Vavani : suppose, dear reader, that you had a 
thousand feet, a thousand hands, and so on with every 
organ of your body, and that they were all simultaneously 
tortured by torments as atrocious as they were varied, 
would the agony not seem intolerable to you ? Well, 
then! Jesus said to the Blessed Vavani, " I am the Head 
of a body of which all Christians are the members, the 
greater number of whom have been, are, and will be, torn 
from Me by mortal sin." And how many amongst them 
torn from Him for ever ! 

360. And amidst all these griefs our dear Lord has no 
comforter. He is alone, abandoned by all. He has not 
allowed His Blessed Mother to follow Him to Gethsemane. 



APPENDIX 329 

He turned to His chosen disciples, but they were sleeping ; 
they could not watch with Him even for one hour. And 
some hours later His desolation will be still more complete ; 
when His Apostles shall have fled, when Peter shall have 
denied Him, when, towards the close of that awful night, 
the servants, weary of blaspheming, insulting, and smiting 
Him, shall leave Him alone for a while until the return 
of Caiphas from the Sanhedrin, He will be alone, without 
a friend, without any succour ; those who, four days ago, 
shouted their Hosannas are no longer there to console 
Him, and He knows that they will soon be drawing nigh 
again, but only to cry, " Crucify Him !" 

To be abandoned of men would be as nothing if He were 
conscious of God s nearness. But this supreme desolation, 
the consciousness of being forsaken by God, this also He 
will endure, and He will endure it up to His last breath, 
for it is at the moment of His death that He utters that 
piercing cry : " My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken 
Me ?" Agony of soul, agony of body, nothing was lacking. 
His body is one vast wound. That which the prophet has 
spoken of the moral condition of the people of God : A 
planta pedis usque ad verticem non est in eo sanitas (From 
the sole of the foot unto the crown of the head there is 
in Him no place without its wound), is literally true of 
the Victim Who has taken upon Himself the sins of the 
people. All the runagates from hell glut their fury upon 
Him. At the column, blows succeeded blows, and the 
executioners were weary of smiting before Jesus was 
weary of suffering. Then they press down upon His head 
that horrible crown of thorns, of which one cannot think 
without a shudder. 

361. This is the treatment meted out to the Son of God 
He Whose majesty fills the heavens with wonder, He 
Whose power called the universe into being out of nothing 
ness, the Eternal, the Boundless Wisdom, the Infinite 
Love. 

Ah ! yes, Love ! If His other attributes are veiled during 



330 THE DEGREES OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 

His Passion, this one shines forth before all eyes. His 
love ! Jesus proves it by His patience. He proves it 
by allowing His executioners to live, praying to His Father 
to pardon them, touching the heart of the thief. He 
enfolds all men in His love. Does He not suffer Himself 
to be embraced by Judas ? does He not call him His friend ? 
He would hide under His goodness the ingratitude of the 
traitor, He would submerge under the ocean of His love, 
of His merits, of His expiation, the sins of the vilest 
criminals. Such as do not obstinately resist Him He will 
purify by His tears and by His blood ; He will transform 
them by His grace, and in the endless ages they shall be 
with Him, flooded with glory, with sanctity, and with 
bliss. 

These are the thoughts which uphold our most sweet 
Saviour. And do you think, dear reader, that at that 
moment, as He gazed upon your soul, He did not desire 
a greater perfection for it here below, and on high a resplen 
dent, overwhelming glory, an immense happiness for 
ever and ever ? 

No ; if you do not attain to a high degree of virtue 
you, whom He has already called to a life of piety ; you, 
who know His love so well, who understand how intoxi 
cating are the joys of heaven for courageous hearts ; if you 
lie prone upon the earth, the fault is yours alone. I do 
not address you as being of the number of those souls 
whom He has chosen as His spouses, still less of the number 
of those whom He has made His ministers upon the earth ; 
for if, honoured by such dignities as these, you did not aspire 
to perfection, you would indeed be without excuse. 

362. Why, then, do you hold back ? Do the sacrifices 
which perfection requires seem too hard to you ? Well, 
then, draw near often unto Jesus Crucified ; from Him you 
will derive an inexhaustible courage. He who is constant 
at Calvary will find his generosity grow ever more and 
more at the foot of the Cross ; no obstacle will be able to 
hold him back. Maybe you love your comfort over-well, 



APPENDIX 331 

or you cannot make up your mind to give up those little 
cherishings of your sinful flerh ? Seeing what Jesus has 
done to His body, you will triumph over your sensuality, 
and will no longer shrink from penance. You cannot 
accept humiliations, reproaches, contempt, oblivion, hard 
words, mockeries, calumnies ? You crave to be esteemed, 
loved, praised, honoured, consulted, approved ? Behold 
Jesus suffering ! Is He esteemed, sought after, approved, 
honoured ? Judas, the executioners, the people, the 
learned, the rich, the priesthood, Herod all are despising 
Him, insulting Him, blaspheming Him. You cannot over 
come your antipathies, forgive this person who has made 
you suffer, done you some injury ? Oh, follow Jesus to 
Gethsemane, to the Pretorium, to Golgotha, and remember 
that the thought of this same person, whose wrong-doing 
wounded Him also more than it has wounded you, never left 
Him, and that our Lord was happy to suffer for his sake. 

Become, then, dear reader, a frequenter of Calvary, 
and you will soon burn with the desire to pay back love 
for love to the Heart of Jesus. Far from dreading the 
heights of perfection, you will soon aspire thereto with all 
the ardour of your soul, and Jesus will bless your efforts. 
One more perfect soul ! One more heart aflame with the 
Divine love ! Great will be the glory for God, great the 
joy for the Heart of Jesus ; for the Church a power and a 
support, and for yourself the most desirable of all blessings ! 



END OF VOL. I 



R. AND T. WASHBOUKNE, LTD., I, 2 & 4, PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 



956 66 



SAUDHEAU, Auguste. 

The Degrees of the 
spiritual life. .33